s p r I n G • 2 0 0 7
The TeTra sOcIeTy Of nOrTh aMerIca: cusTOM assIsTIVe DeVIces
shining a light on the
best of the best
TOrOnTO chapTers: Clients, volunteers and funders
came together to celebrate some of the most inventive
The Tetra Society of North America is an independent
non-profit that provides customized assistive devices
to people with disabilities. It has 39 Canadian chap-
ters and two more in the United States, all based on
volunteerism within the local community.
The chapters in the Greater Toronto Area—Toronto,
Hamilton and Peel—came together to celebrate the
best of the best: five of the most inspiring and unique serVInG an ace: VOLUNTEER MIKE MCNALLy DEVISED THIS TENNIS BALL LAUNCHER THAT ALLOWS A
Tetra solutions. TETRA CLIENT TO DEVELOP HIS OVERHAND SERVE.
The GTA Gizmos award show, held at St. Andrew’s
Club, Toronto on Feb. 9, brought together more “ The people present got an idea of the aWarDs WenT fOr:
than 100 volunteers, clients and supporters to see many projects that we do, and how
examples of the devices that make so much difference • A tennis ball launcher that enables a
each one really means something to the nationally ranked wheelchair tennis
to people’s lives, and hear testimony from clients. individual that receives it. People might player to develop and practice his
“Awards were chosen according to merit, fitting a cer- look at the archive on the website, and overhand serve
tain criteria,” explained Tetra Ontario development have seen pictures, but having a client
coordinator Glenn Barnes. “ We were looking for the explaining what the device means to • A modified crib that allows a new mom
most ingenious solutions and the projects that made them makes all the difference.” in a wheelchair to care for her baby
the most difference to the clients. cOnTInueD On paGe 3
Trike modiﬁcation lets ally I had it so he could ride it.”
boy ride on He turned the frame upside down and
reassembled the parts onto this (saving
haLIfaX chapTer: Cutting a few inches
almost four inches), cut down the forks,
off a child’s tricycle may not sound like
headset and handlebars…anywhere he
a major undertaking, but it has made a
could make a difference.
world of difference to a youngster with
restricted growth. But the real neat touch was producing
a project that looked exactly like a pro-
Tetra Halifax volunteer Bill Rudolph, of
duction trike, even down to replacing
Herring Cove, NS, was asked to under-
the decals in new positions. The reward,
take the project to let a five-year-old boy
of course, came from watching the boy
ride by himself. The boy is the size of a
try out the bike.
one-and-a-half year old, and his parents
were unable to buy a suitable trike. “He doesn’t have speech, but I got some
squeals,” said Rudolph, who has been
“ They got him a tricycle, but there was a
volunteering with Tetra for the past
five-inch gap between his foot and the
year since he retired.
pedal,” said Rudolph. “I did everything
I could to cut that bike down. It was a It is still a work in progress, as this dedi-
WheeLs: TETRA VOLUNTEER BILL RUDOLPH GIVES THIS quarter-inch here, a half-inch there, and cated volunteer next needs to raise the
yOUNGSTER HIS FIRST TRIKE.
in places it was a sixteenth, but eventu- handlebars a little to clear his knees.
Tetra clients talk about their lives,
their projects and the barriers they
Dan LebLanc: saILInG aheaD
(VOLUNTEER DAVID GRAHAM, LEFT)
In TheIr OWn WOrDs
PICTURES: MITS NAGA
“It was around one-and-a-half years ago, and I
was at GF Strong Rehab Centre, sitting in my
room feeling not too good.”
Carpenter Dan LeBlanc, aged 28, became
a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic in a
. dirt-bike accident in Yukon two years ago.
He spent a year in rehab, coming to terms
with his new life. His love of outdoor leisure
pursuits seemed a thing of the past, until
ar T JOnKer
: MO DE RN AR
someone gave him a leaﬂet about the Dis-
T abled Sailing Association of BC (DSA BC).
“It gave me a little hope for the future,” said
“I’ve always been a doer, not a watcher.” LeBlanc. “But I was thinking, first how am I
VE NO -O NE BE
an Dr ea Gr Iff In: LEA going to fit into the boat because I have this
Art Jonker was critically injured in a
dirt-bike accident on Vancouver Island in great big ventilator?”
“ Two years ago I had a very special student.” September 1977, aged 30. The impact shat- Recreational therapist, Mary Clark, wanted
tered the fifth vertebra in his neck, leaving to make it happen, as LeBlanc used to sail
Music teacher Andrea Grifﬁn, of Nelson
him quadriplegic. and surf before his accident. She called
Elementary School, Burnaby, had a profes-
sional dilemma. It looked like one of her stu- After two months’ intensive care, he was around the world to try to find a boat for her
dents was going to be separated from his peers transferred to Vancouver’s GF Strong Rehab client, before she contacted Tetra—a sister
during music classes, due to his disability. Centre. He recalls going in full of hope about organization of the DSA—and asked for a
the future, but gradually becoming jaded, ventilator-holding modification.
The boy had small hands due to his medical
until he found a new outlet—art. “It took time and a lot of effort from a lot of
condition, and was fully integrated into
school life. She introduced the recorder in “I’m an optimist, but it got to a point when people, but eventually I was sitting on a sail-
Grade 4, having the pupils play one-handed, I could not figure out what to do next,” he boat with the biggest smile on my face,” said
using just the top three notes. This boy was recalls. “It kind of wore me down.” LeBlanc. “It lifted me up, just to be meeting
an A student. people and on the water again.”
One day Jonker attempted using a mouth-
The following year, when told they would stick paintbrush in the GF Strong art therapy Tetra volunteer David Graham, of Burnaby,
learn the rest of the notes, he asked: What do room. He was pleased with the result. Paint- BC, worked on a team effort with LeBlanc’s
you do if you can’t reach all the notes? ing was new, something impossible to recreational and physiotherapists, which
compare to how it was before the accident. involved prototypes and mock-ups before
“ The options were that he didn’t play they were satisfied the system was safe to go
the recorder, or tell him to only play the But Jonker could only paint a small area out on the water. LeBlanc sailed five times last
notes B, A and G and leave out the other without an assistant to keep moving his summer, with an instructor, and intends to go
notes—which weren’t choices—or else find canvas. He needed an automated way of solo when DSA sailing resumes in 2007.
an ingenious way for him to play the instru- doing this.
ment,” explained Griffin. “I contacted Tetra,
Tetra volunteer Gregg Harris created a work-
and a volunteer came up with this wonderful
able easel late 2000, which within two years
recorder which allowed this pupil to partici-
had developed into the world’s first power
pate alongside his peers. He needed no help.
easel. It has helped Jonker to develop his art
He was fully integrated into the music class.
to the point that he could make it a com-
He was so proud of that recorder.”
mercial venture. There have been other Tetra
Griffin is left somewhat bemused that projects since, relating to day-to-day living
an engineer who had worked on Nasa’s (a computer stand and a proposed system
Apollo project—Greg Harris, of Burnaby, for answering the phone) that allows him
BC—would come to her school and work for expression on a daily basis.
nothing to produce a recorder with keys that ceLebraTInG Our 20 Th annIVersary
could be played like a clarinet.
paGe 2 The TeTra sOcIeTy Of nOrTh aMerIca
PAUL CERMAK JAy DREW
DrIVInG fOrce: SAM SULLIVAN, WHO
celebrating 20 years FOUNDED TETRA IN 1987, HOISTED THE
OLyMPIC AND PARALyMPIC FLAGS
of personal solutions to AT THE WINTER OLyMPICS STADIUM
IN TURIN, ITALy USING A WHEELCHAIR
universal problems FLAG-HOLDER…DESIGNED By TETRA.
This year sees the 20th anniversary of the freezer. I was able to pull the freezer door “I had just retired,” he said. “I was reading the
formation of the Tetra Society of North open, but it was on a spring, and it would APEG BC magazine and doing the things I
America. spring back. did not have time to do before. There was a
letter asking for volunteers. I said ‘why not?’
The society was started in 1987 by current “I turned around and Paul was nowhere to
Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan, after be seen. He had gone into my bedroom and “I called Sam. We went for a coffee. He said
engineering solutions—provided free of taken a coat hanger. He unraveled it. I put the he needed three or so improvements to his
charge—revolutionized his life. Tetra has hook to the freezer door and it opened. I’d personal living arrangements.
grown over the past 20 years but remains been trying to do it for months. It was done!
“ Volunteering with Tetra is very interesting.
true to his original vision: volunteers provid-
“I remember once saying to him: ‘Paul, I’m It helps people to resume the life they had
ing a personal service.
going to pay you for that.’ He said: ‘No, Sam, before their accident, or some disease.”
Sullivan became quadriplegic after he broke I found it in my workshop.’
Jay Drew, of Tsawwassen, BC, began
his neck in a 1979 skiing accident, at age
“Jay Drew showed up a little later—who is the with Tetra in 1991 after reading a call for
19. He subsequently spent seven years on
second longest-serving Tetra volunteer.” volunteers, and has become central to the
welfare, battling depression, and haunted
Vancouver chapter. He has more than 200
by the dilemma: how do you get a job if you These projects revolutionized his life, Sul-
inventions to his name.
can’t feed or dress yourself? livan said. They solved everyday issues, such
as having loops sewn into his socks that “All my life I felt I was meant to do some-
He detailed how he would meet up with a
enabled him to dress himself, or enabling thing,” said Drew. “It gives me satisfaction
others at GF Strong Rehab Centre, Vancou-
him to open his apartment door. It soon and a sense of purpose to do something for
ver, to “gripe about how hard it was to get
became apparent that many others needed someone that they cannot do themselves.
things done.” They ultimately decided to
this kind of help, and Tetra was incorporated
combine their resources to hire an engineer, “Helping other people gives you a sense of
in December 1987.
but found this would cost $700 an hour, far fulfillment, and that’s what’s makes you
more than a month’s welfare cheque. Looking back at the growth of Tetra, Sullivan happy. People striving to find happiness only
takes credit for nothing more than bringing for themselves are doing everything wrong.”
Sullivan contacted the industry’s regula-
these compassionate, highly skilled people
tory group, the Association of Professional In 1999, he received the R.A. McLachlan Me-
together with people that have a need.
Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEG morial Award, given by APEG BC to recog-
BC). His plea for volunteers, printed in the “ We do not provide the energy, we release it,” nize “an individual who has combined a solid
group’s newsletter, was met by Vancouver he added. “ There’s so much energy in a com- professional career with outstanding service
engineer Paul Cermak. munity, people wanting to do something for to the community,” and then the CBC
other people. So much love.” Golden Heart Award in 2004. In addition,
“Paul said, ‘Give me an idea of your prob-
on Jan. 10 this year  Drew received the
lems’,” recalled Sullivan. “I reached for the Cermak, who has remained a Tetra volunteer,
Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award
recalled his initial contact with Sullivan.
at a ceremony in Victoria, BC.
frOM paGe 1
• A saxophone holder that enables a music a challenge. His reward comes from help- “It’s a fabulous piece of work, and Mike was
teacher to conduct classes ing people do something they might not delighted to be at the Gizmos,” said Baliko.
otherwise do, citing an example of a sip n’ He’s a fabulous man, a great volunteer.”
• A fishing rod caster that allows a quadriple-
gic to go fishing puff channel changer he designed for a lady Toronto Tetra coordinator Brian McLean
in Mississauga, who was paralyzed from described the “absolutely amazing” event as
• Tetra Toronto’s longest serving volunteer the neck down by Multiple Sclerosis, so she “off the scale of fun.”
The final award went to volunteer Sam could view television without having to ask
Gala sponsor was Kangaroo Design. Barnes
Barnes—“He’s my father,” confided for assistance. hopes to maintain the relationship for future
Glenn, “but it was hard to keep it away from Tetra Hamilton coordinator Sylvia Baliko Gizmos events in the area.
him”—who has completed 25 projects over was proud to nominate a project completed
the past six years. • Anyone in Ontario wanting to talk about
by volunteer Mike McNally, which fires a Tetra—as a client, health professional or
Sam Barnes said he volunteered because tennis ball straight up in the air to allow a volunteer—should contact Glenn Barnes
he has “a knack for doing things” and likes client to develop his overhand serve. at 905-274-8584.
The TeTra sOcIeTy Of nOrTh aMerIca paGe 3
abbotsford/ fraser Valley, bc Whistler, bc Ottawa, On
Contact head office Contact head office Contact head office
firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
1-877-688-8762 1-877-688-8762 1-877-688-8762
armstrong, bc calgary, ab Toronto peel, On
Gary Arbuckle Kim Beckers Matthew Fleet
email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
250-546-6449 403-259-5783 905-814-8789
Questions, Observations, cranbrook/ east Kootenay, bc edmonton, ab Toronto Metro, On
Want To Know More? Contact head office
Contact head office
1-877-688-8762 780-634-8608 1-877-688-8762
Kamloops, bc Lethbridge, ab Toronto north, On
Jacquie Arnold Gary Wheeler Brian McLean
firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
250-828-5085 403-381-7080 905-882-5611
Kelowna, bc Medicine hat, ab Trenton, On
Contact head office Maxine Tindall Gary Richard
If you have an idea for a customized assistive email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
device that could transform some aspect of 1-877-688-8762 403-488-1322 1-877-688-8762
your life, please tell us about it. nanaimo, bc red Deer, ab Windsor, On
Lisa Schultz Contact head office Sharon Lumsden
Every Tetra project is unique: tailor-made to firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
250-754-3576 1-877-688-8762 519-735-8763
one person’s particular needs and capabili-
penticton/south Okanagan, bc regina, sK Montréal, Qc
ties. They can relate to your home, work- Contact head office Terri Sleeva Contact head office
place, school or leisure location, but note email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
1-877-688-8762 1-877-688-8762 1-877-688-8762
that we do not fit ramps (any construction
prince George, bc saskatoon, sK fredericton, nb
carpenter can do that) and we do not copy Simon Rose Contact head office Christine Plourde
devices already on sale. firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
250-963-9258 1-877-688-8762 506-462-7662
We first determine if the proposed project prince rupert, bc Winnipeg, Mb halifax, ns
is safe, that no commercial solution is Contact head office Tom Scatliff Audrey Peake
email@example.com TScatliff@exchange.hsc. firstname.lastname@example.org
available and you have a volunteer nearby. 1-877-688-8762 mb.ca 902-860-1995
Next, a volunteer will discuss your ideas and salt spring Island, bc
st. Johns, nf
figure out how to make them reality. They Derek Emmerson hamilton, On Dr. Leonard Lye
email@example.com Sylvia Baliko firstname.lastname@example.org
will create whatever is required and work 250-537-9351 email@example.com 709-753-0733
with you to make sure it is suitable – mak- 1-877-688-8762
Trail/castlegar, bc Los angeles, ca
ing minute adjustments to ensure that it is Jim Rees Kingston, On Dr. Sam Landsberger
safe and does what you originally intended. firstname.lastname@example.org Contact head office email@example.com
250-364-1878 firstname.lastname@example.org 1-877-688-8762
You will not be billed for their time, just Vancouver, bc columbus, Oh
asked to repay materials and mileage costs. Pat Tweedie London, On Russ Weir
email@example.com Contact head office firstname.lastname@example.org
1-877-688-8762 email@example.com 1-877-688-8762
We frequently work with Occupational 1-877-688-8762
Therapists, Physiotherapists, Vocational Vernon, bc
Ann Cotton north eastern Ontario, On
Rehabilitation Consultants and other health firstname.lastname@example.org George Ewen
specialists. Please contact us if you have a 1-877-688-8762
client that you believe will benefit from a Victoria, bc
Tetra project. email@example.com
Fill out an online Request for Assistance,
or contact your local Tetra coordinator, or
reach us at head office by email, phone, fax
or mail (details on this page). Tetra Society of North America
DO yOu WanT TO be parT Of ceLebraTInG Our 20Th annIVersary
The TeTra prOcess?
We are always looking for volunteers, both
for technical and administrative positions. have an idea for a project?
Tetra operates via a series of chapters, aided
by head office in Vancouver, BC. Each works Want to know what’s possible?
within its own community, and comprises
of volunteers with a wide range of technical Want to overcome a barrier?
skills (not all engineers!) overseen by a
coordinator, whose duties include network-
ing and hosting the regular volunteer h e re’s h ow t o re a ch us ...
You will need to submit references and
complete a criminal record check if you
want to volunteer with us.
paGe 4 The TeTra sOcIeTy Of nOrTh aMerIca b ox 2 7, p l a z a o f n a t i o n s A - 3 0 4 – 7 70 Pa c i f i c B o u l eva rd S o u t h , Va n co u ve r, B C V6 B 5 E 7