Volume LVNovember 2008Number 4

A Life-Changing Lift

Every year, the Pineknotter Days celebration, the popular town fair in Northumberland, sends the soft hum of voices, cheerful music and the smell of freshly fried food floating through the summer breeze.

Just a block and a half away, Keith Strouse lives with his sister's family and mother, Pat. Every year, Keith looks forward to going to the fair. If he was having a good night, Keith could slowly make his way through a section of the fair, clutching his walker with every step. Some years, he only made it there once because he had to wait for a family member to push him down the street in his wheelchair. This year, thanks to the gift of a Joey Lift from Masonic Villages' Outreach Program, Keith made it to the fair. In fact, he didn't just go once, he went every night it was open!

The Joey Lift attaches to the inside of a van, and an electronic arm with a platform automatically extends out to the ground. A family member can roll the scooter onto the platform, and the arm lifts the scooter into the back of the van. "It's really neat how the lift goes up into the van. You just push the red button, and it lifts you up," Keith explained. This contraption made it possible for Keith's family to buy him a scooter that he can use anywhere the van can go.

"Without the lift, we wouldn't have been able to get the scooter," Pat explained. "The lift came first, and then we got the scooter." A scooter is too heavy for Pat to lift into the van, so without the lift, Keith had to walk everywhere. With Cerebral Palsy, walking creates serious hardships, and as a result, Keith was very limited in what he could do.

Pat's late husband, Bro. Franklin Strouse, Eureka Lodge No. 404, Northumberland, was a Mason, and Pat's family still receives publications and promotional material from the Grand Lodge. While the family could not support the Grand Lodge financially, Keith had some tangible needs.

Pat wrote a letter to the Gift Planning Office staff who forwarded the letter to Mrs. Debra Brockman, Director of Admissions and Outreach at Masonic Villages. Soon after, Pat got a phone call from Debra to discuss how the Outreach Program could best assist the family. "They had already researched obtaining a lift that would make Keith more mobile and independent but could not afford it, so these funds provided for that need," Debra said. Together they decided that a gift, not a loan, of a Joey Lift through Home Assistance was the best fit.

"It was absolutely like a miracle to us. I don't even know if we can put into words how much it means to us... The new Joey Lift allowed us to purchase a scooter which [Keith] has dreamed of for a long time," Pat said. "Keith has never been able to even think of driving a car, and of course in every young man's life they think of owning a car. Well, Keith is able to drive. It may be a scooter, but he's able to steer and be independent."

"I go around town on [the scooter]. I really like it!" Keith said.

The day Keith got his scooter, he took a trip around the block to show off the shiny red paint and his newfound freedom. When he didn't come back, the family had to go out searching for him. They found Keith several blocks away - still riding the scooter, still showing off, still ecstatic. The family, not angry or frightened, just revelled in the fact that they had to go out and find him at all. "We had a good laugh that day," Pat said. "He likes being on his own."

Besides cruising around town, the lift and scooter have opened many doors for Keith and the family. Someday, Keith's sister will be his primary caregiver, and having the lift and scooter will simplify her life. "Anything we do now affects the whole family's life in the future," Pat stressed.

Because of how much the lift and scooter enhance Keith's mobility, he recently went on a job interview. This fall, he plans to break out the blue and white and head to State College for some action-packed Penn State football. With the new lift, friends and family members can borrow the Strouses' van and take Keith to places he's never enjoyed before. Even tasks such as going to the movies used to cause strain for Keith. Now, he's able to roll right up to the theater and enjoy an evening of entertainment. "It's really a godsend," Keith said of the lift.

"Your gift cannot be measured, in any way. Nor will it ever be forgotten," Pat said. "We just can't thank you all enough. It's just meant so much to this family."

The Outreach Program may be able to help you or a family member find the resources you need. For more information, visit our Web site at http://www.masonicvillagespa.org/outreach.php or call toll-free (800) 462-7664.

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