SAWs was formed by Rik Hagarty, Deacon and Elder of Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, in 2003. He felt the need and desire to help those persons who were confined to their homes because of a lack of ability to successfully transverse to and from the residence. In his words, “They were held prisoner in their own homes.” His solution was to create an organization that would be charged with the responsibility building ramps to open the “prison doors.”
The need, as Rik and others saw it, was accelerating as life has been extended through medical advances. The aging process was leaving even more persons with mobility challenges than ever before. This has been complicated by veterans returning from war zones with significant physical injuries. By 2030, it is estimated that the number of people aged sixty-five and older with some form of disability could rise to 69.4 million from 34.7 million in 2000.
To meet the increasing demand, SAWs began with seven volunteers willing to plan, promote and build ramps. Today, the present number of five hundred persons across the State of Indiana involved in SAWs is only the beginning of the growth picture presented by this dedicated organization.
In 2006, disability-associated health care expenditures were 26.7% for adults residing in the United States and totaled $397.8 billion. According to the 2010 Census, 3.3 million people fifteen and older use a wheelchair. Another ten million use a walking aid, such as a cane, crutches or walker. It is also estimated that about half of wheelchair users must use steps to enter or exit their homes. Given these statistics, it is easy to understand the needs that SAWs understood at its beginning and continues to address on a daily basis.
Because of the construction efficiencies achieved during the past thirteen years, it only takes a few hours for the men and women building the ramps across the state to plan and execute the process of “building freedom” for those confined to their homes. From 2003 through 2015, 800 ramps were built utilizing twenty-eight volunteer construction groups from across the State. And, as the saying goes, “You haven’t seen anything yet.” The growth potential will continue as the needs increase in the coming years. Keep in mind, there are seventy-eight million “Baby Boomers” who are turning sixty-five at the rate of ten thousand per day. That statistic alone will have a marked affect on the building of future ramps.
Speaking of the future, SAWs is now exploring ways of growing its potential on a national level. The local group has been approached to expand its services in the Midwest as well as in numerous states across the nation. The foresight and monies necessary to make those moves are numerous. However, using the determination and skill exhibited in Indiana, it won’t be too long before SAWs should be in evidence from coast to coast.
For more information, contact SAWs at 8811 North Robbins Road, Indianapolis, IN 46268-1024 (317)844-7664 or www.SAWsRamps.org.