Justin Ayres, who was paralyzed in a motocross accident, uses a ParaGolfer chair from David’s Chairs to hit the links at Stone Ridge Golf Club in Eagle Point. [Photo courtesy of Steve Furst]
Justin Ayres steps out onto the beach on one of the deckchairs provided by David’s Chairs. [Photo courtesy of Steve Furst]
Five years after David’s Chair founder Steve Furst inadvertently started a nonprofit to provide access to the outdoors for people with mobility issues, the organization is growing by leaps and bounds, moving into a more “official” space and widening its scope to make specialist wheelchairs accessible. around the country.
A handful of events starting tonight and continuing over the weekend will raise funds to fund special outdoor tracks and golf chairs that allow people with reduced mobility to enjoy activities such as outings to the beach, fishing, hunting and golf.
David’s chair began when Furst’s friend David Hartrick, a hunter and fisherman who worked as a caregiver in Medford, was diagnosed with ALS in January 2017.
An avid outdoorsman, Hartrick didn’t want to give up on the things he loved to do.
Furst and a group of friends got together to raise money for an Action Track chair, complete with tractor-like “wheels” and joystick controls to navigate all types of terrain.
Although the chairs are less expensive than some conventional wheelchairs covered by medical insurance, Action Track chairs are not covered. Hartrick’s friends managed to provide him with a chair before his death in January 2018 and promised to continue their work to help others.
Furst said the past five years have been a whirlwind, and 2022 in particular has seen “a year of great growth and expansion.”
Over the past year, David’s Chair, which provides the chairs free of charge, has placed chairs in Tigard, Houston and Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine. Before this year, the chairs were already in Rogue Valley and on the coast.
“Right now we have 11 track chairs, in total; eight are in southern Oregon,” Furst said.
“We have a chair in Houston, where 50% of its users are veterans with disabilities. We also work with the American Legion in Tigard, and they host a “Tow and Go” chair program. The chair is in constant use, which shows how badly there is a need.
Central Point resident Justin Ayres said his life would be dramatically different without the services David’s Chair provides. Injured in May 2013, Ayres is considered an incomplete paraplegic, with sensation in parts of his legs and gluteal muscles.
An outdoor enthusiast who grew up on a ranch, Ayres said he wasn’t ready to “stop living” when he was crippled in a motocross accident.
“I started using wheelchairs three years ago. I sat down for a few moments, feeling a little sorry for my situation, but a good friend lifted me off the couch. After that, I always ‘hunted on the road’ and did what I could, just so I could get out,” Ayres said.
“Once I discovered track chairs, I was able to go back into the woods and do things I love to do. I honestly couldn’t get enough.
“When I first found out about this they were getting busier and I knew there were people in a worse situation than me so I didn’t want to use it too much if others had need them. But if it were up to me, I’d be there all the time.
Ayres said the more recently introduced ParaGolfer chairs have allowed him to golf three or more times a week when he’s not at work. The ParaGolfer chair features two golf cart-style tires for traversing turf; a single rear tire allows the user, belted while standing, to pivot and turn.
“He belts you in your legs and waist so you can get up and lean into your club and swing,” Ayres said.
“Before they had ParaGolfers, I tried golfing with a golf cart because a regular wheelchair can’t go over grass. I was trying to hold on to the cart to balance myself, in a way.
Ayres said access to the free service was life changing and that his life would be dramatically different without David’s chair.
“They’re really dedicated to what they do. It’s really about helping anyone and everyone. Steve even pays for my golf sometimes, just to get me out and use one of the chairs,” he said.
Furst said every release and every changed life means Hartrick’s dream is coming true. Changes for the coming year include a move – from “three and four different garages around town” to a consolidated “real house” in a warehouse with offices in White City.
Once settled, they plan to raise funds to continue providing services to anyone in need. Furst said the organization prioritizes veterans with disabilities and works with other veteran service providers where possible.
With a half-decade of experience, Furst said, David’s chair was focused on growth and expansion.
“That’s the year we decided to try to develop it. One of the things David talked about was everyone having access to chairs,” he added.
“We are really trying to honor this mission and keep moving forward. When you can’t go out and do the things in your life that you love to do, it’s hard to have the motivation to want to keep going. What we hope to do is provide these tools for free that give people a chance to still be able to get out and live their lives.
Two events, collectively dubbed “David’s Chair Big Weekend Fifth Anniversary Celebration,” are scheduled for Thursday and Saturday to raise funds for more chairs.
Thursday will see a casino night at Rocky Tonk, 333 E. Main St., in Medford. The event will run from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., featuring poker games, raffle items, and other activities. Doors open at 5 p.m., casino games start at 6 a.m., and raffles are at 9 a.m.
The weekend’s main event, a dinner and fundraiser, will take place on Saturday at Olsrud Arena at the Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. with games and a silent auction. Dinner at 5:00 p.m. will be served by Sweet Tea Express. A dessert auction will take place at 6 p.m., followed by a live auction at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 per person.
For more details, see davidschair.org.
Contact journalist Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.