2017 Winner - Francis Dwyer

Francis Dwyer is a 27-year-old young man living with Downs Syndrome, who has already reached many milestones in his quest to live as independently in his community as he possibly can.

Although Francis had a part-time job at the time his application was submitted, he was relying heavily on a job coach to help him complete the requirements of his job, rather than working more independently. Francis, along with his mother, his job coach and his AT specialist, mapped out a list of goals and implementation strategies to make progress in three key areas of his life: work/vocational skills, activities of daily living, and community living and recreation.

His mother, Jeanne, aware of what a difference some simple apps could make in her son’s life, applied for an Eric Fund grant on her son’s behalf in hopes of securing an iPad for Francis, and the Ablelink, Endeavor 3 app and Google Calendar.

One challenge that Francis faces in his day-to-day life is remembering what tasks he needs to complete and at what time. The app is an iPad-based monitoring system that helps an individual live more independently by creating daily schedules for work and activities of daily living, daily medication reminders, all things with which Francis needs assistance. The Endeavor 3 is helping Francis create a weekly calendar with visual and auditory reminders of what he needs to accomplish. He hopes to one day use it to help him learn how to follow a recipe and cook a simple meal. Francis’s mother expressed her extreme gratitude to The Eric Fund for providing the technology that will enable her son to continue his progress on his path toward independence.

 

2017 Winner - Roxie

Six-year-old Roxie did not take kindly to being mistaken for a baby. Roxie, who lives in Maryland and has cerebral palsy, was going back and forth to school in an adaptive stroller she had outgrown that was being held together by duct tape. The stroller required another person to push Roxie, and did not permit her to move on her own.

Her single mom had tried for more than two years to get insurance to pay for a proper power wheelchair for Roxie, but unfortunately, the more than $4,300 copay for the wheelchair and all of the necessary accessories were out of reach financially. This year, Roxie finally received the wheelchair she had been waiting for, thanks to help from The Eric Fund, which paid the copay for Roxie’s new power wheelchair.

Roxie now steers her own future, whether it is down the hallway at school, at home with her mom, or out in the community. Since the new wheelchair was customized for Roxie, it will accommodate her as she grows and will assure proper positioning.  “(Roxie) has a drive and strong desire to be independent,” says her mom. “She is ready to soar… (and with her new wheelchair she will) be empowered to be more independent in her daily activities.”

 

2017 Winner - James Aliban

At 14, James Aliban has endured more than any young boy should. He has undergone two open-heart surgeries, a bone marrow transplant, and is currently in remission from leukemia. In addition, he lost his mother to cancer three years ago, leaving his father as his primary caregiver.

Due to his hearing loss in both ears and limited verbalization skills, James had been using the LAMP Words for Life app on his iPad to communicate as best he could. However, this solution was far from ideal; while the LAMP Words for Life app was helping him gain the ability to express himself, progress was slow. He needed a device dedicated solely to communication.

James was nominated for The Eric Fund grant by his speech-language pathologist, who believed that the Accent 1000 – an augmentative communication device manufactured by the Prentke Romich Company – used with the LAMP Words for Life language system would help reduce James’s frustration and support additional language learning. Using the app with the Accent 1000 would give James a way to communicate in all settings throughout his day, improve his social connections, learning opportunities, and ability to express his wants and needs.

Unfortunately, the $7,500 cost of the Accent 1000 was more than the maximum amount that The Eric Fund awards any one applicant, which put in jeopardy the possibility of getting James this life-changing technology.

Enter Prentke Romich. The Prentke Romich Company has been a leading manufacturer of augmentative communication devices for more than 50 years. The Eric Fund has worked with PRC many times over the years, to provide assistive technology to our award winners. When an Eric Fund board member reached out to them about James, they were ready and willing to help.

At its annual silent auction fundraiser on May 1, The Eric Fund featured a special “fund an item” component specifically designed to raise money to put toward the purchase of the Accent 1000 for James. The Prentke Romich Company generously donated the remaining amount, allowing the grant to go through and allowing James to have a voice.

James Aliban, his father Anastacio, and the entire board of The Eric Fund are tremendously grateful for the generosity of the Prentke Romich Company for making this grant possible! 

2017 Winner - Alana Dimapilis

Ten-year-old Alana is one of five children in a large family that struggles month-to-month to make ends meet. Alana’s mother, Loretta, describes her as a happy, thoughtful little girl who is always smiling and loves Pokemon!

When Alana was born she was diagnosed with Opercular Syndrome (also known as Foix-Chavany Marie Syndrome), a paralysis of the facial and laryngeal muscles (among others).  As a result of this condition, Alana is unable to speak verbally. The Eric Fund awarded Alana with an iPad, that she will use as a communication device both at home and at school so that she can better interact and communicate with her family, friends and classmates.

Alana had been using an iPad paired with the Proloquo2go app (with a built-in speaker) as a communication device at school. The Eric Fund provided Alana with a special case with speakers for the iPad a couple of years ago. When the iPad broke, the school would not replace it, which severely inhibited Alana’s progress on mastering the device, let alone her ability to communicate with those around her.

It is expected that Alana will always need to rely on a speech-generating device. With her own device awarded by The Eric Fund, she will continue to build both the skills and confidence that will move her toward living a more independent life.

2017 Winner - Carolena Garrison

One of the things Carolena Garrison enjoys most about her job as a restaurant hostess in Northern Virginia is the people – the regular customers, coworkers and managers she gets to work with each week. But now, thanks to a cutting-edge piece of technology provided by The Eric Fund, Carolena, who is legally blind, will be able to greet her family, friends, regular customers and coworkers before they even speak a word.

The Eric Fund purchased for Carolena an Orcam MyEye, a special camera device that mounts on glasses and acts as a visual aid for people with low vision. The MyEye’s facial recognition software can be programmed to recognize a number of people. When the camera sees a familiar face, it will speak the person’s identity into an earpiece Carolena wears. The MyEye also translates images and writing through the earpiece, allowing Carolena to read printed words on anything from forms to menus. Currently, Carolena requires assistance to read the restaurant’s table map to seat customers. “With the technology, I can run the floor plan and help my customers,” says Carolena. “(The MyEye) will make my job a lot easier for me. It will me give me more independence.” The Eric Fund is honored to provide this important piece of equipment to advance Carolena’s independence at home, work and in the community.

2017 Winner - Emilia

Eight-year-old Emilia is now riding in style in Northern Virginia with a new wheelchair and car seat from The Eric Fund. Emilia, who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, as well as physical and intellectual disabilities, outgrew her adaptive stroller to the point it was negatively impacting her positioning and posture. Emilia’s parents did not have the financial means to afford the necessary equipment for Emilia and turned to The Eric Fund for help.

The Eric Fund purchased a new wheelchair and adaptive car seat custom made for Emilia. Her parents were so grateful for the equipment for their daughter, they decided to help another family in need by donating Emilia’s old adaptive stroller that was still in good condition. With all of the necessary safety features and adaptations, Emilia is on her way to being more independent at school and at home. “It’s great,” says her father. “I can’t tell you what a difference this has made.”

2015 Winner - Elliott Conecker

Elliott was born with vision impairments and developmental delays that impact his capacity to interact with his family and peers.  His parents had Elliott's first speech/hearing evaluation when he was not yet two, in hopes of getting a jump on determining which adaptive devices could help him thrive in his toddler years and hit the ground running in pre-school.  It was determined Elliott engaged well with speech generating devices and cause/effect switches to explore his environment.  The Eric Fund provided colorful toys and adaptive switches to help him learn to communicate and interact with is family. 

2014 Winner - Kayla Mallory

2014 Winner - Kayla Mallory

Kayla Mallory is an 8-year-old girl who lives with her parents and brother in Washington, D.C. Kayla is a person with autism and complex behavioral issues. Kayla received an Eric Fund grant for multi-sensory equipment that will turn a room in her home into a multi-sensory room to provide Kayla a place to receive sensory therapy. Cheri, Kayla’s mother, was excited to learn of her daughter’s grant award from The Eric Fund. Cheri explained that one of Kayla’s primary sensory activities she enjoys is spending time on her swing outside. “Since winter time is coming, it will be so great to have this equipment in the house,” Cheri said. The equipment package includes various lights, switches, sound devices, projectors and even a bubble machine. Cheri said the equipment will help not only Kayla, but also her brother who experiences sensory challenges. “We are so excited!” Cheri said.

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2014 Winner - Steven Moshuris

2014 Winner - Steven Moshuris

Steven Moshuris is a 10-year-old, energetic kid who lives with his family, including two siblings, in Alexandria, Virginia. He has autism and has challenges expressing himself verbally. After Steven broke the screen on the iPad his school provided, he was no longer allowed to bring it home. According to his dad, Demetrious, Steven’s communication suffered, and because his lack of communication frustrates him, he’s had a tough time with other behaviors.

The iPad2® and Proloquo2go software provided by The Eric Fund will enable Steven to communicate at a much higher level with his family. His dad told us, “The first and second order effects of that cannot be overstated. His difficult behaviors will be tempered; he will be able to articulate his wants and needs to everyone he encounters, and he will be able to communicate with his brother and sister. Steven’s quality of life is going to increase. We know from experience that breaking the communication hurdle is crucial to Steven’s development.”

 

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2014 Winner - Manuel Perez Medellin

2014 Winner - Manuel Perez Medellin

Manuel Perez Medellin is a 38-year-old man who, before the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS), worked as a home remodeler. He lives with his family in College Park, Maryland. Due to his physical disabilities as a result of MS, Manuel is no longer able to work and has difficulty standing for long periods of time or walking any distance. He has been seeking treatment and physical therapy at Johns Hopkins Hospital where it was determined that the Bioness L300 Foot Drop System would be of great help to Manuel. This system will allow him to regain his freedom and independence by helping him walk with greater speed, stability and confidence. The physical therapy sessions at Johns Hopkins also included training classes on how to operate and maintain the Bioness L300 Foot Drop System, so Manuel is ready and able to make the best possible use of this medical device awarded to him by The Eric Fund. Manuel was very happy to be notified of this award and he said that it would help him immeasurably in his daily activities.

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2014 Winner - Marisa Laios

2014 Winner - Marisa Laios

Marisa Laios is a young woman living with cerebral palsy who is determined to take part in community life as independently as possible. She uses a power wheelchair to navigate her home and community and, with the help of a care companion, is able to successfully tend to activities of daily living.

Like many people her age, Marisa loves going to the beach and enjoys it even more when she is able to sit in the sand, like her peers. However, due to her mobility limitations, Marisa often encounters many barriers when trying to access recreational and social activities that her friends and peers take for granted. Going to the beach – and transferring to the sand – is an example of one such activity that Marisa has challenges accessing, made all the more frustrating by the fact that she loves it so much.

When Marisa contacted The Eric Fund to request an adaptive beach chair that would allow her to sit upright and be supported in the sand, she had already been denied funding by a variety of different sources on the grounds that it wasn’t “medically necessary.” While perhaps it is not, the beach chair is just the sort of adaptive device that The Eric Fund loves to provide to enable Marisa to access – and fully experience – going to the beach. In turn, this will enable Marisa to more thoroughly interact with her friends and enjoy the types of experiences that are essential to a good quality of life. Bring on the sand!

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2014 Winner - James Hyman

2014 Winner - James Hyman

A bright 7-year-old boy from Damascus, Maryland, James Hyman has Asperger’s syndrome, dyslexia and ADHD. He is looking forward to an assistive technology grant from The Eric Fund to help him expand learning opportunities at school and communicate more easily with family and friends. His parents’ request to The Eric Fund for electronic aids such as an iPad, plus a special adaptive chair and desk, is an outgrowth of recommendations from his school and Children’s Hospital where he works with therapists. James has access to some of the equipment that assists him in learning and improving his communication skills at these locations, but needed the supports at home as well.

The school James attends focuses on supporting children with disabilities; however, the technology that is available to him at school and in his occupational therapy is not provided for his use away from the school or hospital environment. Because he experiences social and academic challenges, his teachers and doctors recommend that he use technology to enhance his education program and better communicate his thoughts by writing his assignments on a computer. According to James’s mother, Catherine, the family is hopeful that The Eric Fund award of an iPad Air2® will help build his confidence and allow James to develop life-long strategies he will use in school and once he graduates.

The Eric Fund is pleased to provide James with some of the assistance he needs to help him advance as he meets the challenges of each new level of school. A 2-year warranty will accompany the iPad.

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2014 Winner - Benjamin

2014 Winner - Benjamin

Benjamin is a 17-year-old student who attends public school in Fairfax, Virginia.

Despite a robust special needs program, the budgetary restrictions at Benjamin’s school makes access to technological devices difficult. Benjamin’s mom was thrilled to find out The Eric Fund helped fill the gaps in assistive technology funding and that the Eric Fund granted her son an iPad Air2®, a protective case, communication software and a two-year warranty for the device.

Benjamin’s mother is a single mom and has spent years working with the public school to maximize Benjamin’s potential. Benjamin has autism and has challenges communicating verbally. Upon hearing the news of the grant, she said, “I can’t believe it. Such wonderful news! There are so many things that Ben will now be able to do. The iPad will not only give him pleasure but will allow him to interact with those around him.” Benjamin’s iPad and new software will give him the means to communicate with his family, classmates and friends who will be able to follow Benjamin’s activities on the blog his parents created for him. His mom is also looking to Benjamin’s future needs when she is no longer able to support him. She feels his success will be greatly enhanced by his access and use of technology like the iPad and software Proloquo2go.

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2013 Winner - Brian Tran

2013 Winner - Brian Tran

Brian Tran, a 10-year-old from Fredericksburg, VA, has autism that results in speech delay and difficulty integrating with his environment. Brian attends a school that specializes in teaching kids with severe autism where his mother Christine has witnessed the profound effect that technology can have on kids like her son. Currently, Brian primarily echoes words he hears others say and only speaks about 4 words on his own.

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2013 Winner - Trayonne Robertson

Trayonne Robertson, a 21-year-old student at St. Coletta Special Education Public Charter School is from Bowie, MD. Trayonne has multiple disabilities due to cerebral palsy and intellectual disability and he works daily to achieve his goals. Trayonne enthusiastically engages with staff and his peers when in school and his favorite activity is music and singing.

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2012 Winner - Enrique Oviedo

2012 Winner - Enrique Oviedo

Enrique Oviedo is a 12 year old from Bristow, VA who has Down syndrome. Enrique has intellectual disabilities and a very limited vocabulary. Enrique has had trouble responding to the available com- munication devices available at his school and has been mostly sedentary at home and shown little interest in academic activity. With the help of a therapist, Enrique has been introduced and learned to use an iPad. 

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2012 Winner - Alex Martin

2012 Winner - Alex Martin

Alex Martin, 19, of Rockville, MD is a talented young artist with autism who is unable to speak and reads at a first-grade level. Alex will use his new iPad in school to learn new design programs and improve his computer skills. The iPad will help him communicate and the Edmark Software II that The Eric Fund is providing will help him improve his reading. 

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