In The News
By Vincent A. Tifer
Chairman, Board of Directors MGT
With the IKAN BOWLER® and IKAN SOCCER GUARD all POWER WHEELCHAIR USERS can go WHEELCHAIR BOWLING and play WHEELCHAIR POWER SOCCER. Including people with Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Spina Bifida, Quadriplegia, Spinal Cord Injuries, Multiple Sclerosis and other power wheelchair users…
August in the college town of Gainesville, Florida is a time when you find the few and the hard core still hanging around off campus, waiting for another semester to begin and more friends to return. For Bill Miller and his roommates Rob Harrison and Ernie Barnett, it was a carefree time, filled with workouts, cookouts, girls, sports, beer and take out.
August 23, 1997 began like every other day, but ended quite differently. In the early morning, Miller got out of bed to go to the bathroom. He tripped on an ab-roller and fell awkwardly. When his roommates found him a few hours later, he was lying face down with his head resting on a wooden clothing and shoe rack he had built. They picked him up and put him back in bed. When Miller woke up around 8am, he couldn’t get up. Hoping it was another “stinger” like he had experienced when playing football, he thought this too would pass after a little more sleep. It didn’t, and a few hours later, he asked his friends to call 9-1-1.
“The next thing I knew, a half dozen emergency workers were immobilizing my neck, strapping me to a backboard, and trying to maneuver my six-foot frame down two flights of townhouse stairs. It wasn’t fun,” said Miller.
Miller was initially diagnosed as a C-5, C-6, incomplete quad. Two neuro-surgeries later, he was a C1, C-2, complete quadriplegic on a ventilator.
Such Tragedy Is Becoming Increasingly More Commonplace. Miller’s Response to it, However, Was Anything But.
Miller’s case is textbook. Injured at the age of 20, he reflects the age and sex of the majority of the approximately 243,000 people in the U.S. who have become quadriplegic due to spinal cord injury. Most, however, become disabled after automobile accidents—a whopping 40.9 percent according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Database. Of the 11,000 new cases each year, 53 percent are between the ages of 16 and 30, and the most frequent age at the time of injury is 19. As modern medicine improves, so does the survival rate. Unfortunately, the quality of life for many is but a shadow of their pre-injury existence. But Miller was not about to let his spinal cord injury stop him.
Enter Retired GM Engineer Claude Giguere and Vincent Tifer
Retirement doesn’t sit well with many, and Canadian-born Claude Giguere certainly fell into that category. Moved to volunteer by President’s Bush’s “Thousand Points of Light” speech in 1991, Claude found himself in Judge Donna Miller’s courtroom nearly a decade later, assisting as a volunteer bailiff. He quickly learned about her stepson’s situation and at the urging of Judge Miller who suggested a bowling device could be built, Giguere said, ‘I can build a devise so he can go bowling.’
“I had to work with the garage door closed on the first wooden prototype, because there were restrictions about working on a commercial enterprise in my retirement community. But we didn’t let that stop us,” said Giguere.
In their excitement, they shared their journey with long-time friend and retired Brandon, Florida businessman, Vincent Tifer. Tifer, who suffers from secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis, saw the bowler as much more than just a recreational tool for Miller.
He saw it as a way to bring hope and enjoyment to millions of power wheelchair users around the world. Tifer volunteered his time and began an equally arduous journey to make the bowler a viable product and a sanctioned sport.
“The first time I saw the bowler,” said Tifer, “I knew that this could be exactly the thing for bringing quadriplegics and all other power wheelchair users with other disabilities like Bill out of the shadows.”
Bill Miller, Claude Giguere and Vincent Tifer then formed a company known as MGT Corp. and next after an exhaustive trademark search, the name IKAN Bowler® was chosen and registered. IKAN is taken from the Greek work IKANO, meaning enable. Today the company is known as Manufacturing Genuine Thrills, Inc. d/b/a MGT.
The Power Wheelchair Disabled Go To the Bowling Center Lanes
The word about a new recreational opportunity quickly spread among Central Florida’s disability community. Miller met Michelle Carston, who is a C5 quadriplegic due to diving into shallow water. She agreed to join Bill and go bowling. Ben Lux, a victim of an encounter with a semi tractor-trailer, had also heard of this new device and decided to try his luck at bowling. As the word spread further, others like young Jennifer Harman, left quadriplegic after diving into shallow water, Rhonda Reese, who was paralyzed after a drunk-driving accident that claimed the life of her fiancé, and Wendell Howell, Jr., also a victim of a drunk driver, joined the team. Then Jeff Parker, an individual with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, joined their team and the Bowling Squad had its original seven. They now bowl on the second Saturday of each month at the Villages in Lady Lake, Florida, and have drawn much attention while on the lanes.
This unusual team captured the attention and commitment of the Rotary Club of the Villages, who made the IKAN Bowler® their personal Centennial Project. They now pair young Early Act elementary school-aged Rotarians and Interact Club members, their teenage counterparts, with the Quad Squad for bowl-a-thons to raise money for bowler donations to needy organizations. The last bowl-a-thon raised enough funds to donate a bowler to the Shepherd’s Center in Atlanta, Georgia, a renowned catastrophic care hospital. Priced at $ 599.00 includes shipping and handling, the bowler is out of the reach of many who were financially, as well as physically, devastated by injury and disease. Groups like The Rotary Club of the Villages have worked hard to make the bowler available to as many in need as they can.
“It is so heartening to see the acceptance and compassion on the faces of our young bowlers going against the IKAN Bowling Squad. The lessons of good citizenship and empathy learned by the children who participate in our bowl-a-thons are priceless,” says Cliff Moore, former president of the The Rotary Club of the Villages.
Many states also have programs to help purchase the IKAN Bowling equipment for the financially disabled persons within their state. Contact MGT to learn more about existing programs.
The IKAN Bowling Squad has also proven to be an important social circle for the bowlers. They all live within a 40-mile radius of each other in Central Florida, but keep in contact via phone and voice-activated computer when not meeting on the lanes. Often they bring family and friends to join in on the fun.
“It’s been hard finding something my whole family can share with me. Now, we can enjoy bowling together. It’s a dream come true,” says Harman, who is also a recipient of a Rotary Club donated bowler.
First-Time Bowlers Travel Far To Try Their Hand at A Little Independence
Take, for instance, Tina Hughes. A league bowler for many years, her world changed on July 21, 2002 while on her way to her bookkeeping job at Home Depot in Gainesville, Florida. A small puddle of water and a light rain made her SUV spin out of control.
Three weeks later, Hughes awoke to learn she had broken her sixth and seventh vertebrate and severed her spine, rendering her completely paralyzed from the mid-chest down. Now a resident of the Oakhurst Therapy Center in Ocala, Florida, Hughes can’t stop talking about her IKAN bowling experience.
“I have a twin sister that I used to bowl with, and now we can do that again. Besides fishing, IKAN bowling is the most physical thing I’ve done since my accident” Hughes said.
Equally important, Hughes had never met another quadriplegic until the day she bowled. She is now in telephone contact with the other members of the Bowling Squad and is working to raise enough money to buy a bowler and a voice-activated computer of her own.
According to Mark Ravenscraft, marketing coordinator of the Rehabilitation, Engineering and Technology Program for the University of South Florida’s Department of Engineering, these types of assistive devices will become more and more important as our population ages.
“We look at hundreds of devices each year, including those that aid mobility and communication devices, but the IKAN bowler® is quite unique. Plus, as our population ages and as we engage in conflicts around the world, the need for similar assistive technologies will explode over the coming decade,” said Ravenscraft.
Wheelchair Bowling Is Nothing New
When heroes returned home in wheelchairs in record numbers after World War II, bowling was identified as an important rehabilitative tool for VA hospitals all across the
Country. Bowling alleys were installed, and bowling became more than just a past-time—it became a much-needed social and recreational outlet for those who had few options. The same is true today with our returning veterans from the IRAQ and Afghanistan wars.
Today, the Paralyzed Veterans Association of America holds the National Wheelchair
Games, which feature stationary ramp bowling as an event. The major difference between this type of event and IKAN bowling events lies in the latter’s design and engineering, which makes it possible to bowl from a moving wheelchair. No other bowling ramp device has ever been approved for sanctioned league bowling by any sporting body.
The IKAN Bowler® Becomes Official
What began as a rather clunky looking ramp was re-engineered by Tom Muckle at Mill Brook, LLC in Old Lyme, Connecticut to become the first and only fully barrier-free wheelchair bowling system in the world. Now sleek and durably built of PVC, stainless steel and aluminum, the IKAN Bowler® was presented to the American Bowling Congress (now known as the United States Bowling Congress) and the process of making it a sanctioned sport became reality on March 19, 2004. On that date, the American Bowling Congress (USBC) amended Rule 4C, which previously would not allow for any device that provided any type of force. The Women’s International Bowling Congress (now also known as the USBC) approved the same rule change on May 4, 2004. The Congresses ruled that because the IKAN Bowler® was attached to the wheelchair, it was the wheelchair user who was imparting the force. Why was this important? Because it allowed severely disabled bowlers to compete on equal ground with able-bodied bowlers. It marked the first time in history that a power wheelchair user had a sport with rules of play that were no different than any athlete—able bodied or not.
“There have been a number of ramps,” said Al Vandenack, team leader of Specifications and Certifications for the American Bowling Congress and the WIBC (USBC), “but none that attached directly to a wheelchair. That makes the force and momentum of the ball no different than if it left someone’s hand. We think it’s going to open sanctioned league play to those who couldn’t participate before.”
Product Practicality and Functionality
There are currently very few recreational and even fewer competitive outlets for those with severe disabilities and quadriplegia. Due to the Americans with Disabilities Act, most bowling centers are already able to accommodate special needs bowlers. Many currently carry a device known as a Minnesota Ramp, but cannot compete on the same playing field as able-bodied bowlers with that non-attachable device. The IKAN Bowler® provides the practical service of allowing those with severe disabilities the chance to compete and enjoy outings with able-bodied friends/caregivers and family members. Its functionality lies in its simplicity to attach to a wheelchair and maintain. The IKAN Bowler® is shipped in two parts, the parabolic arm and universal mounting bracket. Designed for tool-less assembly, the bowler can attach to a chair in less than one minute and allow the user to bowl without interfering with any part of their body or their wheelchair’s mobility.
PRODUCT AFFORABLITY AND COST EFFECTIVNESS FOR THE END USER
The IKAN Bowler® is priced at $599.00 per unit shipped. However, due to the financially devastating nature of catastrophic injury and debilitating disease, there is a portion of the market that cannot afford the purchase price. MGT asks that anyone that cannot afford to purchase an IKAN Bowler® to contact your local bowling center and direct them to MGT’s website and ask them, will they please purchase one for their center and explain other power wheelchair users will then come to their center to bowl with family and friends also. The IKAN Bowler® has proven to be a very reliable piece of equipment. Its sturdy construction, which consists of durable plated aluminum, stainless steel and tough PVC, is precision-engineered for optimal performance and safety
WHAT DO IKAN USERS HAVE TO SAY
MGT has many life-changing and uplifting stories to share that you will find inspiring and empowering. MGT is the manufacturer of breakthrough and award-warding assistive technology that enables people, even those with severe physical challenges to “Get Back in the Game of Life”. Our products, the IKAN Bowler® and the IKAN Soccer Guard have made a tremendous impact on the lives’ of their users.
MGT has products that can enable virtually ANY POWER WHEELCHAIR USER TO BOWL and/or PLAY POWER SOCCER, a fast growing sport among power wheelchair users.
These are just a few comments from the many severely disabled people who each have a great story to tell about their experiences for fun or competition with the IKAN Bowler® and how it has changed their respective lives.
“Who could have thought that one thing could change a person’s life so much. I have something that I’m good at to look forward to enjoying every day; something I can share with my family and fiends. I can tell you this for sure, my life has not been the same since I got my IKAN Bowler®.”
“I’ve got something I can physically do! There’s really nothing else I can do physically, virtually by myself, besides drive my power wheelchair and run a computer using voice software. I’ve seen first-time users of an IKAN Bowler® cry tears of joy from the experience. I’ve seen friends and family members who are overcome with emotion from watching their loved one physically do something fun—for themselves—for the first time in years.
To even think then actually realize that someone as physically limited as I am, can compete in true sporting fashion with able-bodied people in a sanctioned sport, something as FUN as bowling…it’s just a phenomenal, uplifting and empowering improvement for society. And it’s felt by the IKAN Bowler® users, our competitors, our family and friends, the patrons and employees in bowling alleys where we bowl, and by people who read articles and watch news stories about our bowling achievements. This is the magnitude of the IKAN Bowler®.”
“Since I was a professional athlete before my accident, I had a difficult time adjusting to a sedentary life after paralysis. I still felt the need to be involved in athletics so I tried a few different things to feel active once again. I soon realized that these pursuits still didn’t satisfy my competitive nature. Although I had fun, I was still merely just “along for the ride”. I wasn’t an ACTIVE participant. It wasn’t until trying the IKAN Bowler® that I felt ACTIVE as well as competitive. I, my wife, and friends have bowled about a dozen times now and we are having a great time. For the first time since 1990, I feel my athletic, competitive needs being met.”
“Sports have always been a large part of who I am. Competitive bowling from my wheelchair has given me back the motivation to strive to be the best athletic competitor I can be, which I thought I had lost when I lost the majority of my body.”
“I have been confined to a wheelchair for over twenty years because of a disease called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. In the past I’ve used those metal ramps available in most bowling centers but the IKAN Bowler® is far superior and much more accurate. It put the bowler in complete control. The IKAN Bowler® is an absolute blast, the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”
To find out more about MGT’S products and the great impact that they have on POWER WHEELCHAIR users just visit MGT’S web site at: www.ikanbowler.com.
Vincent A. Tifer
Chairman, Board of Directors MGT