Wheel-A-Thon encourages community team building

By Olivia Willoughby

Residents of DeKalb got to show RAMP how they rolled Saturday at the 11th annual Wheel-A-Thon.

RAMP, 115 N. First St., is a local organization that helps people with disabilities.

RAMP’s main goal during the event was to help participants understand more about disabilities as well as to take a walk in the shoes of those with disabilities. Funds were also raised in order to provide for RAMP’s services.

Though most participants walked during the event, some decided to get the perspective of those with disabilities, wheeling the two miles in the wheelchairs provided.

“We showed how we rolled through teamwork,” said special education major Amy Allen. “We took turns doing the wheelchair and walking.”

The two-mile route started at the Frank Van Buer Plaza, went through part of the NIU campus near the Art Building and circled around back to the plaza in a little less than an hour.

During the walk, participants helped each other pull through. As those in the wheelchairs got tired, their teammates pushed them along the path.

“We created this challenging route on purpose,” said RAMP development director Amy Morris. “It was so they could realize that it is a challenge to use a wheelchair. And we also wanted to make sure the route encompassed the community along with the NIU community.”

Saturday’s Wheel-A-Thon not only helped these two communities get together, but it also show how RAMP’s goal is to promote the accessibility and success of individuals with disabilities.

“Fifty-one percent of our staff has a disability,” Morris said. “So, we feel that we really model what we want society to look like: people with disabilities integrated into the community.”

RAMP’s Wheel-A-Thon also encouraged team building for the community. Allen and her friends from NIU’s Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC) came along to work as a team. As the SCEC vice president, Allen said she was happy to volunteer.

“It’s a great cause,” Allen said. “Any opportunity that can support special needs children, we’re willing to do it. Also, it’s something close to our hearts. I feel like any opportunity to be advocates puts a smile on my face when I see kids come out and support.”

Each participant had their own reason for coming to the Wheel-A-Thon, whether for family members or for themselves, said Heather Foulker, DeKalb County services manager.

“It’s a way of giving back to the community and knowing they are helping RAMP to continue their services,” Foulker said.

For Allen, it goes even deeper.

“It’s just the sense of pride,” Allen said. “I step forward in becoming a better person and being there for the kids that I want to help every day for the rest of my life.”