We are excited to announce that the shipping container with over 200 Wheelchairs has arrived in Uganda and has cleared customs! Nine people from the ROC Wheels Team will be flying out on October 10th . The Team consists of Wayne and Lee Ann Hanson, Martin Haas, Nick and Dominic Palmer, Kara and Maya Wieberg, Paul Nokes and Kathryn Piller. Thanks to the help of our partner Uganda Orphan’s Fund, and numerous other generous people in Uganda, the container is scheduled to be unloaded shortly. The Team will deliver and fit wheelchairs at 3 different sites over a 3 week period.
The ICU2 Head Support
The ROC Idea Center is a place where ideas can become reality. The ROC Idea Center designs and delivers products that mobilize children and adults with disabilities in less resourced countries.
The ICU2 Head support system is a product in the works that will enable the child to look their friends and family in the eye. Children with disabilities often do not have the ability to sit proudly without support or lift their head to see the world in front of them.
Emmett Smith, a brilliant 13-year-old young man, is working with Wayne Hanson and the rest of the ROC engineering team to do research, test materials, design and build the first prototypes. The product development process is a long and arduous one but well worth it when it makes it possible to deliver these products to children worldwide. Our goal in the ROC Idea Center is to present the first production quality prototype to world renown therapists and professionals at the International Seating Symposium in March of 2019.
By: Kathryn Piller
Wow, We Did It!
The big moment the team had been working to achieve occurred when the final three sections of the wheelchair were completed on Saturday a few weeks ago. During previous weeks, the team put together the individual subassemblies of the wheelchair.
Anticipation was high as the team knew that today the results of their previous efforts would culminate in a completed wheelchair. Mike, Dan, Scott, and Cole worked vigorously to place all the components into the right places. The team searched for and found all the matching materials needed for the project. Some disassembly was required but as with most challenges in life, the team discussed the options, then made a decision and moved forward to a successful solution.
Scott and mentor Paul made final adjustments to the axles and installed the wheels. Mike put the completed chair through all the appropriate adjustments and the designed positions. Smiles resonated on team members faces! Mike was heard saying “Wow, we did it, and everything works!!” The men told the photographer, Kathryn, they were happy to know their work would make a child happy and that their achievements were appreciated.
The completed chair is an outstanding example of the valued partnership the Re-Entry team provides to ROC Wheels. Gallatin Valley Re-Entry Team Reaches Milestones.
- By Melissa Loveridge Chronicle Staff Writer
Delivering wheelchairs to disabled kids across the country from Bozeman may sound like a pipe dream, but it’s exactly what ROC Wheels does. Now, the organization is starting a new program, ROC Warriors, a “therapeutic workshop” where combat veterans will help build and deliver wheelchairs around the world.
“We’re helping people here by helping them help others,” said ROC Wheels co-founder Wayne Hanson, who founded the company with his wife Lee Ann.
ROC Warriors is hosting a speech by combat veteran Eric Donoho on Thursday, Aug. 23. Donoho was deployed in Iraq in 2006 and was medically retired three years later. In 2018, he delivered four ROC wheelchairs to children in Nepal, and the ROC Warriors program was born.
The chairs are all designed at ROC Wheels’ headquarters at Four Corners. Many of those working in the “Rocket Shop” are part of the Gallatin County re-entry system; former inmates or those who have community service hours to fulfill. Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte even completed his community service at ROC Wheels after being charged with assaulting a reporter on the eve of his election.
The building smells like construction and paint; a small 3D printer sits upstairs for printing wheelchair parts. The wheelchairs are made from kits built by inmates at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.
“There’s no limit to what we can develop here,” Hanson said. He praised the interns hired from Montana State University’s engineering program, including ROC Wheels’ current intern Robert Knutson.
Paul Nokes, an employee at ROC Wheels, said those working on the wheelchairs in the Rocket Shop are learning how to overcome obstacles in real life.
“You’re going to run into barriers,” Nokes said. “You’ve got to learn how to climb over them.”
Hanson said since ROC Wheels started in 1999, the organization has delivered over 10,000 wheelchairs all around the world, including Mosul and East Baghdad in Iraq. Hanson said when soldiers delivered these chairs, they never drew enemy fire.
The first delivery for the ROC Warriors program is slated to happen in October 2019, possibly to Nepal.
“What we learn with pleasure we never forget”
Joy and enthusiasm filled the room with activity as the men
used their skills to build a unique wall. Using a model designed
by ROC volunteer Paul, residents from Gallatin County Re-entry
Program built a sixteen-foot-long partition, with four by eight
hinged sections, allowing the wall to collapse like an accordion.
The morning began with five men who didn’t know how or if
they could work with each other. When the task began Paul
showed the model and how the partition needed to be built so it
could divide the space into two designated work areas.
You could see the wheels turning while the older men were
teaching the younger ones how to use the tools that would lead
to success. The youngest team member discovered a time-
saving process that he shared with the others.
As the morning went on, the personalities began to emerge
and cohesive teams soon formed. The men brought unique skills
and abilities that allowed the wall to be built in just three hours.
Start to finish the work was of the highest quality. They were
proud of their completed work project.
The enthusiasm that developed by working as a team was
valuable and caused the men to ask if they return. As they said,
“this is not just community service, it is a chance to do good for
Two hundred children in Uganda will receive the gift of mobility, thanks to the work of a local nonprofit. Reach Out and Care (ROC) Wheels has partnered with the Uganda Orphans Fund to bring wheelchairs to severely disabled children.
After an extensive two-year effort that included designing, building and refurbishing wheelchairs, ROC Wheels is ready to ship its latest batch of wheelchairs to Uganda on June 11.
“These wheelchair distributions are all once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” said Wayne Hanson, co-founder of ROC Wheels. “We’re giving mobility to not only the child, but the whole family.”
ROC Wheels has been helping severely disabled children around the world since 1999. With projects in over 20 countries, and more than 10,000 wheelchairs delivered to date, ROC Wheels has changed thousands of families’ lives. Hanson is the former owner of Leggaro, another wheelchair manufacturer in Bozeman, so he is no stranger when it comes to designing wheelchairs.
All of ROC Wheels’ wheelchairs are designed to be as adjustable, durable and configurable as possible. The hope is that every child is able to use the chair for a minimum of five years, and the chair needs to be modifiable enough to adapt to a growing child in a rugged environment.
The wheelchairs include 60 of ROC Wheels’ flagship “Rockit chairs.” Designed by Hanson, the Rockit chair is constructed from a kit. This simple assembly design is integral for ROC Wheels, as it allows for volunteers to easily construct the chairs. ROC Wheels will also be using 40 of Leggaro’s “Reach” and “Trak” chairs, as well as 100 refurbished wheelchairs that have been donated.
In addition to delivering the chairs, ROC Wheels will bring a team of physical therapists, wheelchair fitters and other volunteers to assist with correctly fitting the chairs to every child.
ROC Wheels has recently moved into a new, larger location near Four Corners. The additional workspace has allowed for expanded manufacturing and the addition of two mechanical engineering interns, Robert Knutson and Karl Swenson, to aid with designing and building wheelchairs. Beyond that, ROC Wheels is hoping to grow its Youth Empowerment With The Helper Spirit (YEWTHS) ROC program.
The program is a youth outreach already present in 17 schools. It aims to engage local kids in the community, providing volunteering opportunities to help construct wheelchairs, and even trips to help distribute the wheelchairs to kids in disadvantaged countries.
“Part of our mission with ROC Wheels is to equip people locally so that we can serve people in developing countries,” said Hanson. “We’re helping people here so that they can help people there.”
We feel it is time to establish a new home, (the ROC Center) for ROC Wheels here in the Gallatin Valley. The ROC Center will be the location of the YEWTHS ROC headquarters, ROCKIT Product Development and Manufacturing (ROCKIT Shop) and the ‘ROC Idea Center’. The facility will be handicap accessible.
The Idea Center will be a place where people can work together to develop ways to serve people with disabilities and bring ideas to life through product development.
The ROCKIT Shop will be a place where people can learn manufacturing processes, develop new products and build ROCKIT Wheelchairs to serve the expanded need. Currently, inmates at South Dakota State Penitentiary manufacture completed ROCKIT Chairs and ROCKIT Kits for YEWTHS ROC. The inmates have made a heart-felt commitment to build the jigs and fixtures for the ROCKIT Project at only the cost of materials.
ROC Wheels will be partnering with the Gallatin Valley Re-entry Program in the first ROCKIT Pilot Project. Participants will be able to fulfill their community service requirements, by assembling ROCKIT Chairs. This will be a 20 hour per week program. This project will be a beneficial way to illustrate the therapeutic benefits of working with their hands and joining a team to work out solutions, guided by our Christian values. The ROCKIT Shop will be open the rest of the week for youth, college interns and volunteers.
We are inspired by the way that youth, interns, volunteers and inmates can take the initiative to reach out and help others.
To-date, we have not found the perfect location to call home. We have received seed money to help equip ROCKIT Manufacturing and to support the lease payments. We are praying for God’s provision and timing in this matter.
Thank You for your support. We wouldn’t be here without you.
“I remember this one kid we worked on named Jesús. My partner and I got his sheet and I turned around for just a minute, and when I turned back around he was already in his wheelchair, ready to go, with a big smile on his face. I just looked at my partner, wondering what had happened. My partner just looked back at me, shrugged his shoulders and smiled. Jesús was just so full of joy. He did this thing, where he would reach out for your hands, and then he would pull you in for a hug. Towards the end of his fitting, he got really mischievous. He held out his hands, like he had for the hugs. This time, when I was about to pull away, he took a big long lick, all up the side of my face. He just kept cracking up. All we could do was laugh along with him. We all quickly discovered that these wheelchairs were not just a mode of transportation, they were a way to show God’s love through action, when language is a barrier.” ~Abigail Ross
“Eliu is such a lively kid. I personally see a little bit of myself in him, in his smile, in his laughter, the way he was just so alive. To sit him in a chair was just absolutely incredible. You could tell he had so much joy and you could tell that he was going to be changed because of the chair. Not only was Eliu’s life changed, but his parents’ lives were changed as well. Now they could actually transport him around and get him to school. There was just a whole new world of possibilities for them. In the end, his world was changed, my heart was changed, and his parents’ lives were changed as well. “ ~Eric Bratke
“After going to Mexico, I have learned to not judge a book by its cover. Every person has a story. Chavez had severe scoliosis. He kept having uncontrollable seizures so we prayed over him and started looking at the wheelchair. After that he slept for a while. The atmosphere of the distributions is loud. I thought it was a miracle that he could sleep while we worked on his chair. He was so severe, so I was encouraged that we could get the chair to work for him and that we could get him comfortable. He was a lot more peaceful after we were done.” ~Porter Baldwin
When I joined the ROC Wheels team in the fall of 2016, preparations for the Rotary/ROC Wheels Argentina wheelchair distribution had been underway for over two years. My first involvement with the project was assisting Wayne with selecting the wheelchairs at the Hope Haven warehouse in Sioux Fall, South Dakota. I know they weren’t the only prayers said for this project, but we definitely needed God’s intervention to get the right mix of chairs for the kids and young adults in Argentina.
On our return to Bozeman, Wayne and I shifted our focus to getting the wheelchairs, a 20 foot shipping container, and all of the required paperwork from South Dakota to Argentina. With the excellent services of Jim Griffiths at Jimak Transport Intl. Inc., the container was routed from Sioux Falls to Minneapolis by truck, to New York City by train, then to San Antonio, Chile by ship. From there, the equally excellent services of one Jorge Vega Diaz, a customs agent and Rotarian, shepherded the container through Chilean customs, onto a truck and over the Andes into Argentina.
On March 2nd, ten people, from three US states and Ireland, converged on the EZE airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, then flew on to Santa Rosa to start the week long distribution. Though we arrived at Santa Rosa very late that night, we were met by a throng of Rotarians - the most hospitable people you could ever hope to meet. We were warmly welcomed by all, then we left by ones and twos as we were taken to their homes for the night. Wayne and I were fortunate to be guests of Juan Pedro Torroba and his wife, Estela Werner. Juan Pedro has been the key Rotarian behind the success of this project in Argentina from its inception.
On March 3rd, we spent the day unpacking and assembling the 89 wheelchairs that had completely filled the shipping container. We also fit our first child in a wheelchair.
March 4th through 9th have somewhat run together in my memory as a joy-filled blend of meeting and working with incredibly nice people, miraculously modifying wheelchairs to help kids and young adults have more comfort and mobility, and being treated as royalty by our Rotarian hosts in Santa Rosa, General Pico, Tres Arroyas, and Mar del Plata. Of all the memories, the ones I treasure most are the smiles of the wheelchair recipients (and their families) as they set out in a properly fit wheelchair.—Martin Haas
The Need in Uganda
Over 200 Children from the Kamuli District of Uganda
This year more than 200 children in the Kamuli District of Uganda can’t go anywhere because they are in need of wheel chairs . ROC partnered with Uganda Orphans Fund to identify 205 kids who need chairs. We are in the process of raising $100,000 to meet this need with chairs customized for the needs of each child. Please join us, and help provide the gift of mobility.
The Story of Winnie
“One day I took a rather pothole-filled drive to Winnie’s house. It had recently rained, so we had to avoid getting stuck in ponds and rivers where the road was supposed to be. A local NGO had told me about Winnie. They knew her family was too poor to pay for transport, so the only way to measure her for a wheelchair was to go there myself.
Winnie was lying on a dirt floor in a mud hut with no electricity. When I approached, she politely greeted me. Although she could not sit up, she reached out a hand, and I grasped it warmly. Like many 17-year-old girls, Winnie was private. She asked that the male translator leave when I examined her for sores and deformities. Misshapen body parts definitely abounded: scoliosis, stiffened legs, a club foot. It would have been easy to be distracted by her suffering and miss her person-hood. But by God’s grace, I did not have that mindset. Instead I saw Winnie’s wide smile when I told her she was a good candidate for a wheelchair. I caught the infectious joy in her eyes after being given a first glimmer of hope.
She knows, so much more than you or I do, that a wheelchair will forever change her life. No longer will she be confined to the filthy backroom. Instead, she will be able to explore the world for herself, witness the Ugandan sky turn a rosy orange at sunset, maybe even make new friends. In a country like Uganda that provides little help for people with disabilities, a wheelchair can mean everything. It can mean education. It can mean person-hood. It can mean freedom. “
Wayne Kody Casey Josh John Robert Joseph Martin
This is how we found Jesús. Because of your generous support, the ROC Wheels team went to Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico in March 2016 to distribute wheelchairs. We were not fully prepared for one little boy's impact on our team. When we first met Jesús, he was using an ancient wheelchair that could not support his deformed, rail thin body. Instead, the wheelchair caused many painful open wounds making it impossible for Jesús to find a comfortable position. His impoverished single mother was desperately trying to take care of five children and unable to address Jesús' special needs. That's when you stepped in.
Thanks to your gifts, Jesús received a new ROC wheelchair right then and there. Despite being hungry, deformed and in constant pain, Jesús had a smile that came easy and touched our hearts. Over several hours, we did our best to adapt a chair to fit his body with the materials on hand. We utilized the skills of our YEWTHS ROC team, as well as our local partners from Casa de Esperenza and DIF. When he left us that day to travel back to his home, he was much more comfortable; yet we felt we could do better.
A week later we visited Jesús in his family's home: a one room cinder block without running water. Our team showed Jesús' mother how to adjust the new wheelchair and take care of his wounds. Jesús told us he was hungry. When we asked him what he wanted, he lit up: Chocolate and going for a walk! It was you who made it possible for us to fulfill his small wish and share a moment of joy going for a walk with Jesús in his new wheelchair. Too soon our time in Mexico came to an end and we sadly left Jesús, uncertain whether he would survive his poor health and living conditions.
Back in the states, Jesús was impossible to forget. We knew we needed to do more. After consulting with one of our seating specialist colleagues, Richard Pasillas in California, he was so deeply affected by Jesús' story that he immediately volunteered his help. With time and ingenuity, Richard developed a low-cost seating system to more effectively address Jesús’s complex needs. Together, you, Richard and our friends at Casa de Esperenza, Koenes Ministries, and DIF, ensured Jesús’ new seat made it to Mexico, and was placed on the frame of his ROC chair.
Just a few months later, he had not only gained weight, but hope. You healed his wounds and relieved his constant pain. And because of this one little boy, we now have a prototype of a seating system that will help countless other children with severe deformities.
Congratulations to YEWTHS ROC on receiving the business award from the Montana Council for Exceptional Children based out of Missoula, MT. The award "recognizes a business or corporation that has provided for the employment and enhancement of individuals with exceptionalities in order to promote and support their full participation in the community" (MCEC 2016).
A huge thank you to the school teachers that have participated in the YEWTHS ROC program and nominated us for this great award. We believe that by showing children around the world how they can use their gifts and talents, they can begin to change the world for the better.
Here at ROC Wheels, one of our main outreach programs is our inmate wheelchair building program. While partnering with Hope Haven International Ministries, we have been able to employ over 10 inmates to help build our newest wheelchair, the ROCKIT.
The team lead of production at the prison is Denny Tew who has been helping build wheelchairs for ROC since 2003. He has been instrumental in building a team that helped build over 3,700 of the original ROC chairs and now build ROCKIT chairs and assembly kits to be used by YEWTHS ROC. We would like to thank Tew for his service to our organization and his dedication to our mission. Tew has left South Dakota State Penitentiary but was kind enough to gather the following testimonials from the inmates.
On December 22, 2015, ROC Wheels received word that, Gift, a four year old living in South Sudan received delivery of her brand new REACH wheelchair. Several months earlier in September, we were contacted by Jeanie Tidwell who has been serving as a short term missionary in South Sudan for the past 8 years. Jeanie told us the story of Gift and how she had been born with an extremely rare syndrome called Tetra Amelia (only 7 known cases in the world today) which causes the child to be born without arms and legs. Many told the mother of Gift, Jerissa, that she should starve the baby because of these complications but she chose to keep her.
Wayne Hanson, our co-founder, was able to modify our current reach chair so that Gift would stay secure and properly supported in her new chair. Leggero, a wheelchair manufacturer, based out of Bozeman, MT also generously donated their time and resources to make sure that the wheelchair included important support features. Thanks to Jeanie and her donors, Gift is now more mobile than she has ever been. Gift's mother stated that she is now relived from the pressure of leaving her daughter with children who were tired of carrying the child from one place to another. Gift is now able to be easily moved from one place to another by wheelchair.
Life in South Sudan is extremely hard for a child that is healthy and without handicaps, but it will be even more difficult for Gift. One of the reasons I felt she needed a "special ride" was so that she could more easily go to school. Her parents also expressed concern for finances to educate her. At this time in South Sudan many can only afford to eat one meal each day, some cannot even eat everyday. Many have to make the decision to feed or educate their children and of course from necessity they do their best to simply feed them. I would ask for prayer for all children in South Sudan to have food to eat and an opportunity to have an education, even for special education as will be required for Gift.
We have just completed the design and development of the new ROCKIT Wheelchair. The ROCKIT is a highly adaptive wheelchair that serves children with even the most severe disability. We need help in raising funds to purchase the tooling needed to distribute ROCKIT Chairs world-wide.
People in less resourced countries will be able to get a fully assembled ROCKIT Chair or a ROC Kit which includes all of the parts and pieces for the ROCKIT Chair. The ROC Kit includes the information and instructions people need to build their own wheelchairs. Essential tools, instructions, and an educational curriculum are provided to help them give continuing care for the child and family and help put people to work in their community.
Over 5,000,000 children with severe disabilities in less resourced countries need the ROCKIT Chair. Children with disabilities are often hidden, helpless, and out of sight. These children either have no wheelchair or are in a basic wheelchair that does not offer the critical support and comfort they need.
A similar wheelchair to the ROCKIT would cost $4000 - $5000 in the US. Once we purchase the necessary equipment and tooling we will be able to make ROCKIT Chairs for less than $200. The ROCKIT Chair has been recognized as a world class solution for these children by numerous organizations who would like to distribute it to the countries they serve. There has also been a great interest in building ROCKIT Chairs at a number of prisons in the US.
The ROCKIT Chair has taken two years and thousands of man hours to complete. Rigorous testing has been done and numerous people have provided valuable support, including engineering interns, volunteers, students, and service organizations. These people have gained valuable skills, insight on disability awareness, and have been mentored by highly qualified professionals. Currently, inmates at South Dakota Department of Corrections are building the ROCKIT Chair. They learn new skills and have an opportunity to make a big difference in children’s lives. Inmates build ROC Kits which are assembled by children and young adults in the YEWTHS ROC program. The YEWTHS ROC program is designed to empower youth to reach out and care for others, both in their daily lives and in other parts of the world. Building ROCKIT Chairs is a key part of the YEWTHS ROC curriculum.
We hope you will be able to work together with us to support this project. We would not be here without your personal and financial support. We have included some links which illustrate more about the ROCKIT Chair, who we serve, and how we can accomplish great things through the ‘Power of Partnering’.
Thanks for your support.
Wayne and Lee Ann Hanson
Reach Out and Care (ROC Wheels)
We need business to partner with us by matching donations for kids in the local schools. Through the YEWTH ROC program, the school children learn about social entrepreneurship and technology by building wheelchairs. This empowers them to reach out and care. If you are interested in partnering with us, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Become a Mentor
We are looking for new mentors to be trained to build our new ROCKIT chairs. After training you will assist students with building the chairs in group projects. We need committed individuals that are available in the daytime. To volunteer, fill out the form here.
Andrew Kaltenbach is studying mechanical engineering at Montana State University. Andrew spent the summer as an intern for ROC Wheels.