Shea Stickrod would argue most Americans do not understand what it means to live with a disability, the impact on even the simplest day-to-day errands. Getting out of bed, taking a shower and making breakfast can quickly tally up to two hours spent just on the tasks to get the day started. And he should know: diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy as a child, Stickrod is a life-long Parkite who has grown up using a wheelchair.
"I had a friend all through school who could not talk without a special piece of equipment," said Stickrod, nicknamed "Peach" as friends call him. "Seeing what he went through, knowing what I went through in life, technology is something that helps you live your life on a daily basis. I feel lucky, that I have that help."
New technologies are constantly coming onto the market, products such as the specially-made wheelchair Stickrod uses that allows him to both stand and sit. But with the unique, often custom-tailored equipment comes an equally heavy price tag. It is that reason that has inspired him to create his own nonprofit which would help others with disabilities to afford technology that could improve their lives, from wheelchairs to speech generators.
"I want to help people like myself," Stickrod said. "I want to get them the living aids they need."
But as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise - in this case - a nonprofit.
When fellow Parkites learned about the nonprofit idea, community members decided to pitch in, offering support and donations to help Stickrod find a home for his fledging nonprofit.
In the complete overhaul of his one-bedroom apartment, which will include new flooring and specially-designed cabinets, volunteers are gifting supplies and time to the project to make his humble flat more livable.
"What Peach wants to do, he wants to give back to community," said Debbie Westfall, a volunteer working on the project. "He is already helping others with disabilities. Peach is an engaging speaker and affects people in a positive way. I know he is going to succeed in goal to help others."
Westfall first met Stickrod through other volunteers that help him on day-to-day basis, a mutual friend. She had known him casually for years through his job as a greeter at the local Home Depot. Her involvement in his life hit a turning point in a conversation with others who knew Stickrod, who knew about his ambitions to begin his own nonprofit. In that conversation, the group decided to do something for the man who is always helping others.
"We asked ourselves, 'Why don't we see what can be done,'" Westfall said, "and so we started asking people we know if they could help."
"We are helping out because we know Peach has given to the community in the past," she added. "People know him and they want to help him. To tell the truth, just being involved in this has been very heart warming. More and more people are coming forward to help."
Though donations have added up to major improvements to how Stickrod lives, volunteers involved in the project are asking for help with moving his belongings in and out of the apartment, providing food to those donating labor to the project and welcoming him home at the end of more than a week's worth of renovations, from Feb. 1 through Feb. 10.
After the Paint for Peach Project wraps up, Stickrod has asked for help with the nonprofit, from legal services to website design, in the hopes to start operations as early as 2014.
"I have met all kinds of people affected in all different ways," Stickrod said. " I don't know how to do everything, but having a disability gives me a lot of information others don't have. I just had to get up enough gumption to want to do this. I'm ready."
For more information on how to help with the Paint for Peach Project, which will begin on Feb. 1, or to help with the nonprofit, email firstname.lastname@example.org.