In this Rider Spotlight, we speak with husband and wife, Bekah and Nate, of Pennsylvania. After receiving Nate’s Freedom Chair, this duo (and their three smiling children!) quickly became well-known in the GRIT community for putting their chair to work.
Bekah and Nate use the Freedom Chair as an everyday chair and often share photos of their adventures through muddy forests, busy bowling alleys, hilly cemeteries…and the occasional indulgence at the local ice cream shop.
Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease hasn’t slowed this team down one bit, and GRIT continually admires Bekah and Nate for their positivity and the example they set for all of us. Despite a full work schedule, the challenges that come with CMT, and three young kids to raise, Bekah and Nate have been a powerful force of goodness in our rider-only Facebook group. Always willing to answer questions and offer helpful advice, they have been invaluable in making sure others find comfort, fitness, and success with their own Freedom Chairs.
For these and a hundred other reasons, we couldn’t be more excited to share some of Bekah and Nate’s story with you.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Bekah: We have been married for ten years and have three young children, ages eight, five, and four. I am from the beach area and Nate is from a small town in northeast PA. We are both in our early 30's. In 2018, we went from Nate working and being fully physically able, to me picking him up from work one day because he could not push his foot down, to the diagnosis of CMT, little walking ability, and having to stop working by August of 2018. It was a very tough and crazy year for our kids, for Nate, and for myself—all of it was an emotional and financial low.
How did you meet each other?
Bekah: We actually met through Nate's brother. I went to college in the Philly area, ended up meeting his brother at college, and got introduced to Nate my junior year of college. We have been together since June 2007.
What adaptive mobility equipment, if any, did you try before the Freedom Chair?
Bekah: Nate tried canes, ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) for his legs to keep them from buckling at the knees and falling, a TiLite wheelchair, and then ultimately, the Freedom Chair.
What does the Freedom Chair allow you to do that other equipment could not?
Bekah: It is perfect for the hills, roads, yards, mud, snow, and potholes of Northeast PA. It has allowed him to go off-roading and get back to outdoor activities he could not do with the previous mobility equipment. We can do outdoor play and fun with the kids, whereas before, Nate was stuck inside while the kids and I played outside in any type of weather.
What does a typical Freedom Chair outing look like for you? What do you do? Where do you take it?
Bekah: Right now, it is such a struggle with me having to work. Nate does not have a vehicle equipped with hand controls (cannot afford). He has to wait until I am not working or for someone to take him places other than his own home, his parents’ home, or church, which is not doable now. It has impacted him because there is so much he would want to do but cant get there due to the driving situation and where these fun trails and sites are. Even going to the gun range is a rare outing. However, we have taken it to the Back Mountain Trail, soccer games, church, and Kirby Park.
How often do you use the Freedom Chair?
Bekah: All the time! He uses it as his main chair :)
How did you raise funds for this chair? What was the process like?
Bekah: With the help from GRIT setting up the GoFundMe, us continually sharing the fundraiser, and our income tax return, we were able to make it a success!
What kind of preparation do you do before going out with the Freedom Chair (e.g., route-planning, transportation logistics, etc.)?
Bekah: It is usually just me putting the GRIT chair into the van, going to the typical places (his parents’, church, and other outings, which are rare due to my work and kids' school). We do make sure the chains are tight, the chair is wiped down, and the bike chain is oiled a bit for smooth movement. We basically decide where we want to go and just go!
Can you talk a bit about what it’s like being the “assister”–do you help Nate by pushing from behind? Is the chair difficult to push?
Bekah: It has been awesome! Nate has not required much pushing from me, other than if the hill is super steep or he is fatigued from CMT. It's rare I assist. However, it is super easy and enjoyable to push.
Did you have any difficulty when first using the chair? What did you have to figure out, work through, or solve in order to get the best experience with the chair?
Bekah: From the issues we faced and lack of customer service from the first chair (another company), we did not know what we were doing. With the Freedom Chair, we had to figure out what was causing some issues with the first frame, along with the chains loosening. With the GRIT team troubleshooting over email and phone, and the video to tighten the chains, we have had a phenomenal experience. This chair has meant so much to us!
Is there anything you wish you’d known about the Freedom Chair before purchasing?
Bekah: More about chains and the maintenance :) Truly, though, you guys gave us everything we needed when we were ready to purchase.
Has the Freedom Chair helped you spend time with your friends and family?
Bekah: It has allowed Nate to get into the backyard for playing with the kids, outside to enjoy the fire pit with the family, and helped him navigate the steep hill in his parents’ backyard with the family. We can also take the family to trails, or eventually, the beach (goal for summer 2020).
If you could define an “ideal kind of rider” for the Freedom Chair, who would it be?
Bekah: I would say: Someone who wants to experience new things and go to places he or she may not have been able to without the chair. It is honestly, to us, an everyday/everyplace kind of chair that gives the leverage to go faster and farther. Just about everyone who has even limited use of their hands/arms, can do it.
What advice would you give someone thinking about getting a Freedom Chair?
Bekah: Enjoy every moment with this chair. It gives back the independence and quality of life that everyone needs. Take it in strides. There is no need to push that steep hill on the first go. You will get there!