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Celebrating Volunteers: Stand With Me

Sep 06, 2014   |   WCAX

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Stand With Me is an effort to help children with cerebral palsy whose families cannot afford a crucial piece of medical equipment.

Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the motor control centers of the developing child's brain during pregnancy, birth or their infant years. It is the leading cause of childhood disability, happening in about 3 in 1,000 births and affecting more than 17 million people worldwide. A third of them cannot support their own weight. There is no cure, but physical therapy early in life can greatly improve a child's health and mobility.

But the equipment often costs thousands of dollars, too pricey for many families to afford. Stand With Me is promoting a cheaper solution that they say accomplishes the same goal.

The sound of saws at Pompanoosuc Mills is nothing new, but this unique device isn't furniture, and these workers aren't employees. They're part of Stand With Me, an organization working to bring pediatric standing frames to countries where families with children who have cerebral palsy can't afford standard medical equipment.

Stand With Me team
Scott Mitchell '15 (far right) and the design team.

"I had spent three months working in Peru last summer and kind-of seeing these children on a daily basis and working with both the physical therapists and the patients every day and getting my hands on," says founder Scott Mitchell ['15, dual-degree engineering student at Bowdoin and Dartmouth]. "And I really saw that these patients don't have the luxury of getting these really nice medical devices that we have in the U.S."

Seeing that need prompted Mitchell to develop the prototype during a class at Dartmouth College last year. He worked with physical therapists and doctors to come up with the model they're working on now. A pediatric stander on the market today can cost up to $8,000 and isn't easy to repair. His is different.

"Our standard, as I said, is very cheap. It costs $50-65 to manufacture depending on what parts you actually need for each specific child," he says. "And all those parts can be found at your local hardware store pretty much universally throughout the world."

Already, he's gotten businesses to pitch in. The wood came from Hancock Lumber in Maine, and finishing materials, workspace, and expertise from Pompanoosuc Mills in East Thetford, Vermont.

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