Thirteen-year-old Jack Barnicle had a surprise waiting for him when he got home from school Aug. 27 — a new wheelchair ramp.
The Golden teen has spastic quadriplegia, a form of cerebral palsy.
As he has grown, it’s become more difficult for his family to lift him.
“It’s coming to the right age that he really needs the ramp,” dad Sean Barnicle said.
The ramp was made possible by the Home Builders Foundation, a Denver-based nonprofit that provides accessible home modifications for people with physical disabilities and financial need. Local businesses in the homebuilding industry partner with the foundation to build the ramps at no cost to recipients.
In the course of three days, the Home Builders Foundation’s fifth annual Blitz Build provided 17 ramps for people with disabilities throughout the Denver-metro area. The estimated retail value of the ramps is $60,000.
Although the Barnicle family receives state and federal assistance, some “high-ticket items” aren’t covered.
“One thing dealing with disease is the financial impacts,” Barnicle said. “We’re very, very thankful for this.”
Jack has a power wheelchair that weighs about 400 pounds, so it is not easily transported, and the ramp will allow Jack to use it, Barnicle said.
Jack just got his power wheelchair and he’s still in “driver’s ed” with it, his dad said, meaning Jack is still learning to steer it and manage the coordination of the joystick.
Once he can use it, the power wheelchair will give him more freedom and independence, Barnicle said. Jack won’t be able to learn everything about his power wheelchair overnight, but having the ramp is a move in the right direction.
“The more opportunities we can give him to practice in his chair, the more independent he’ll become,” Barnicle said.
Jack’s ramp was built in the garage of his home in the 300 block of Canyon Point Circle by G.J. Gardner Homes.
It feels good to give back to the community, project captain Dave Pagano said. “A couple of days of work for us will give Jack years of enjoyment in his life.”
The program also built a ramp for a 78-year-old woman in Golden. On the other side of town, in the 200 block of B Street, Ella Smith said she felt bad about always having to be lifted, her daughter Wanda Smith said.
In addition to not being able to go up and down stairs, Ella’s dementia is setting in, Smith said. “It’s either have the ramp, or don’t go out of the house at all. We really appreciate the time and effort.”
What really helps is that it’s completely paid for, she said. The household consists of four people and subsists on a veteran’s income, Smith said.
Ella’s ramp was built on the outside of her home for a motorized wheelchair. The project was completed by six people with Highlands Ranch-based Haberer Construction.
The family-owned business has been in operation for 30 years, said Lane Haberer, noting the company has experience building ramps that meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines and other projects that provide accessibility in homes.
The company tries to do one or two volunteer projects a year, Haberer added.
“This is something we want to be known for—a company that cares about its community,” Haberer said. “There are others that need help, so why not take the time and give back?”