Combine a motorized wheelchair with the treads of a tank and you get a VETANK.
“So it really is a truly outdoor vehicle for independent accessibility. So they can roll through sand, ice, snow, and rough terrain. They can tilt to almost 40 degrees without tipping over and it really provides a lot of accessibility for environments outside,” explained Donna Allen-Sebok, the CEO and Co-Founder of AllenForce.
Plainfield-based non-profit, AllenForce, has been loaning out the all-terrain electric chairs to veterans throughout the western suburbs for the past six years.
After folks at Naperville Ribfest heard about AllenForce’s VETANKS program, the choice to connect the two was clear.
“Well one of the main things we like to do with Ribfest is it’s the Fourth of July so we want to celebrate not only our country’s independence but those who have served to get us there,” said Ribfest Chairman Joel Carlsen. “It’s free for veterans on the Fourth of July and we thought VETANKS would be a great partnership to help veterans get around if they need a little help getting from either the ribs or to the stage or something like that.”
There will be five VETANKS chairs available on a first come, first serve basis during all four days of Ribfest, to help vets maneuver through the 14 acres of the festival’s site at Knoch Park.
“All veterans of all eras, doesn’t matter if you have a permit, temporary disability, maybe you sprained your ankle playing basketball, and it’s going to keep you from going on a hike with your family. What ever your needs are we loan these chairs out completely free of charge,” explained James Dehan, the special events coordinator for AllenForce.
After a quick orientation on how to use a VETANK, an AllenForce Battle Buddy volunteer will assist the user throughout the fest.
And the chairs get the full approval from those who’ve used them time and time again.
“For anybody that’s been in a wheelchair, whether it’s a day, a week, or a lifetime, they know going from cement pavement to grass is terrible, much less to go through gravel or rocks or any other surface. And this chair gives me free range and it gives my family free range to know that I’m ok and they don’t need to help me all the time trying to get up the hills and through the fields,” explained disabled and retired veteran Frank Pierson, who discovered VETANKS three years ago.
Giving the gift of mobility to those who gave us the gift of service.
If you or a family member is looking to use a VETANK at Ribfest, you can stop by AllenForce’s booth, which will be set up at the expo area along Martin Avenue next to the veteran hospitality tent.
Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.
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