More than one group said the wheelchair ramp could not be built – the terrain was all wrong for it, too steep, no way to build a ramp that would meet codes.
But there was a little boy, only seven years old, with muscular dystrophy, who wouldn’t be able to get his electric wheelchair if his home didn’t have a ramp. There would be no way to get the chair in and out of the house.
Thanks to a lot of people coming together and a retired engineer who wouldn’t take "can’t" as an answer, Riley now has his ramp and his wheelchair.
"It’s brought Riley so much happiness and joy," says Bonny List, one of Riley’s teachers. List works with orthopedically impaired children in Catoosa County schools. She and Riley’s first-grade teacher, Ashley White, had gone to a number of organizations that build wheel chair ramps for people, but they all said this one was impossible.
Enter Dave Gilbert, a retired TVA engineer, and two teams of volunteers. Gilbert assessed the site and agreed it would be a challenging project, but he believed it could be done. "It was on a difficult slope," says Gilbert. "ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) codes require 12 inches of horizontal ramp for every one inch in additional elevation. The ramp runs 68 feet."
"Dave was incredible," says List. "He had everything on a spreadsheet, from the materials he needed to the schedules for work crews and everyone’s contact information."
Gilbert says he needed to get both a building permit and a right-of-way permit because the ramp had to go all the way to the street. "Catoosa County was really helpful with the permits," he says.
Gilbert headed a team of volunteers, mostly retired men, from East Brainerd Church of Christ, and Dave Torbett, a retired McKee Bakery engineer, headed a similar group from Tyner United Methodist Church.
"Everyone put in a lot of time and energy to get the ramp built," says Gilbert. "And Home Depot and The Luke List Foundation donated the money for supplies."
Gilbert says that sometimes Riley would come out on the porch and watch the crews work. "It’s nice when you can take a skill you have and have such a visible impact on a young man’s life and give him a little independence."
"This has changed Riley’s life," List says. "He’s freer because he can move around on his own with his new wheelchair. He has his own ramp. Even his academics have improved."