Changing Lives Through Access
It is easy to take for granted going outside, but there are many men and women in our communities who cannot. Five years ago, Mike Dowd '11 and two of his high school friends worked with the Richmond non-profit ElderHome to build wooden ramps for people who could not leave their own homes because
they cannot go up and down steps. This experience prompted the three young men to found their own charitable organization, Ramp Access Made Possible by Students (RAMPS), which installs modular steel ramps for senior citizens and people with disabilities.
In April, Mike was awarded the 2010 Governor's Award for Volunteerism and Community Service. During the past five years, RAMPS has installed nearly 100 modular ramps at homes around Richmond and in Prince Edward County. "We've slowly expanded into the Hampden-Sydney area. Everyone in the community who has heard about the program or has helped install a ramp wants to help us do more."
Mike is excited and honored and recognized for the work he has done, but he is more excited about how the award will bring more attention to the need RAMPS is filling. He says, "Making a difference in someone's life is very powerful. Some of the recipients have not been able to leave their homes in months, sometimes years. Now they can go into their backyard or down the street. It's very uplifting."
Installation is only part of the work involved. RAMPS raises all of the money necessary to buy the ramps, so fundraising is crucial. The modular nature of the ramps also allows the group to reuse them in a new location when recipients no longer need them.
He adds, "We have RAMPS groups at many high schools around Richmond, as well as here at Hampden-Sydney. It looks like we will soon have one at the University of Virginia, and James Madison University is interested. Being involved is fun. Building a ramp doesn't take long, and the impact is immediate."
The RAMPS student crew with a happy recipient of one of their access ramps.