In 2015, Mike Firtha’s daughter Haylee came to him with a challenge. Haylee works for the Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board in Ohio. She met a young girl at work who wanted to be able to ride a bike, but there was no solution available to purchase. Haylee approached her father, an electrical engineer, who made a few calls and within weeks the “Inclusioneers” were formed. Today, the non-profit provides engineered adaptive solutions to members of the local community.
Initially, Mike reached out to his alma mater, Akron University, and was put in touch with a group of Biomedical engineering students. After presenting the idea of helping local individuals who require adaptive solutions to be included, the entire class of engineers signed up to help build the accessible bike.
Over the next few months, the Inclusioneers began to grow as more students and mentor engineers joined the program. Mike’s full-time employer, Airenterprises, provided them with a workspace and additional resources to help the organization. Throughout 2017, they took on several more projects including a combination and tandem wheelchair, crocheting device, and an adaptive ride-on “Power Wheels” Jeep.
After further researching the accessible ride-on car, Mike discovered the work of Dr. Cole Galloway from the University of Delaware. Through groundbreaking research as part of his “Go Baby Go” project, Dr. Galloway helped prove that independent mobility is linked to cognitive, social, motor, language, and other developmental benefits in young children.
Mike saw this as a wonderful opportunity to continue helping Akron area children and in March of 2018, the Inclusioneers donated seven adapted ride-on power vehicles for children. Each one of the cars were sponsored by a local company, and specifically modified to meet the exact needs of their recipient.
Looking ahead to the future, Mike hopes to be able to work with more universities around Ohio to help more families and children. Thank you to everyone involved in the Inclusioneers for all of your hard work and dedication. For more information please visit www.inclusioneers.org.