Fellow Hokies: If you are looking for a way to change lives, I know just the way!

Hope to Walk is located in Christiansburg and is giving the gift of walking to as many people as possible. HTW is an organization that brings freedom and hope by designing and delivering low-cost prosthetic legs to individuals in developing nations who cannot afford them.

There are approximately 35 million individuals around the world in need of prosthetic or assistive devices, and 24 million of these people are living in developing nations where income is less than five dollars a day. Additionally, there is approximately one amputation every 30 seconds caused by disease, trauma, birth defects, or tumors. Unfortunately, the starting cost of a prosthetic leg is between $3,000 and $5,000, and can even exceed $80,000. Amputations are 10 times more likely to occur in low income neighborhoods in the United States and in third world countries, where it is nearly impossible to afford the necessary equipment.

Allison Burns, a senior homecoming candidate, is partnering with Hope to Walk (HTW) to raise awareness in the Hokie community about the need for affordable and accessible equipment for amputees, equipment that can change lives and bring hope to these individuals. HTW is a non-profit organization based in Christiansburg that has succeeded in designing a significantly cheaper prosthetic leg.

Allison discovered HTW during her sophomore year while doing a field study at VCOM in the International Outreach Department. Here, she met one of the co-founders of the organization, Michael Mabry, and was inspired by Hope to Walk’s origin of seeing a need, creating a practical and affordable solution, and then meeting that need.

Allison is passionate about this organization because she has a heart to serve others in need, specifically through medicine. She stated that she has “been blessed to have had the privilege of going on several missions’ trips growing up and through college that have shaped her passions and goals of serving underserved populations on a global and local scale.”

Also, growing up, Allison had a kidney disorder that resulted in frequent trips to doctor offices and hospitals. Here she developed the desire to pursue medicine because of the care that she received, and it inspired her to help individuals that are not able to receive healthcare at all. She will continue to pursue her dream of medicine at VCOM beginning Fall 2019.

Allison chose HTW for her homecoming campaign because she stated that she “loves that the organization has a sustainable, practical, and influential focus in their missions and service.” In the communities that HTW serves, they train locals on how to construct prosthetic legs so that they are being created beyond the few weeks that the mission trip team is present. This encourages and empowers sustainability within these communities and allows more people to be reached.

Hope to Walk is a relatively new organization that was founded in 2013 when Phil Johnson met Michael Mabry who shared a passion for helping others who were incapable of helping themselves. In April of 2014, they took their first trip to Honduras to assess the needs of amputee patients. They encountered over 50 patients in need in just five days, and knew this is where Hope to Walk would begin.

Applying thirty years of experience, Phil Johnson developed a prosthetic leg design that costs $100-150, a fraction of the cost of standard designs. Each of the prosthetic legs are made to suit the specific needs of a patient.

The prosthetics are made of wood and a flexible rubbercrepe material that allows the patient to walk easier. The prosthetic leg pylon is constructed using a one-inch wooden dowel that is bonded inside a PVC pipe that can be cut to any length. The Johnson Prosthetic Leg (JPL) socket is reinforced with fiberglass, and a coupler connects the socket to a neoprene sleeve or a fork strap that is used as a JPL suspension device.

HTW’s prosthetics are currently accessible to individuals in Honduras, Guatemala, Vietnam, and Haiti at no cost to the patients. They train locals in these communities to construct prosthetics to empower them and encourage sustainability. HTW is hoping to continue to expand as their ministry and partnerships grow.

There are many ways to get involved in this organization.

  • Join the more recently developed research team, primarily in the Mechanical Engineering department, that is working specifically on creating a knee prosthetic.
  • Donate money to Hope to Walk! If you donate $200 through their website, HTW will give a prosthetic “In Honor Of” an individual or group.
  • Join them on one of their mission trips– no experience required! They have a trip going out nearly every month this upcoming year.

As part of Allison’s campaign, she and HTW are planning to host workshops in spring 2019 to raise support for this organization and get fellow Hokies involved.

As Hokies, we strive to live by our motto, Ut Prosim, That I May Serve. There are many ways that one can get involved and make a difference in the lives of people around the world, and even here in the local community. Hope to Walk is changing lives every day. In the words of Allison herself, “Together we can help transform lives by giving the gift of walking!”

Get involved and help change the world today

by Caitlin McConnell
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