Help build a wheelchair ramp, bring dog home

ST. PAUL, Minn. - In terms of building projects, this one is not overwhelming or complicated.

But the impact a wheelchair ramp would make in the life of a career nurse who lives in St. Paul would be vast. Deb Blakeway suffers from neurological woes that leave her mostly confined to a wheelchair. A recent surgery left her basically trapped in her own home, unable to use the front steps without someone's help. Even if she could navigate the steps herself, pulling her wheelchair along to get to the curb to meet a Metro Mobility bus would be even more difficult, if not impossible.

"I'm basically stuck," Deb laughed ruefully.


Making matters worse is that Deb is coping without her best friend and constant companion, a Golden Retriever named Madison. When Deb was mobile she would lead Madison in dog shows and competitions. She also uses her furry friend to teach young people how to show dogs. Now that she has trouble getting in and out of her home Deb is unable to let Madison outside or give the dog the exercise she needs. The retriever is staying with a friend while Deb recovers and attempts to regain her mobility.

Two local nonprofits, Rebuilding Together Twin Cities and Barn Raising, are partnering to build a wheelchair ramp to give Deb her life back and allow her friend Madison to come home. Those who wish to donate can visit a web page set up by Barn Raising, described by Barn Raising's Jim Rettew as "king of a local version of kickstarter for nonprofits." The goal is to raise $2,600 to purchase materials, and recruit 4 to 6 volunteers to construct the ramp. The fundraising effort is scheduled to end January 2.

For Blakeway, who admittedly has a stubborn streak, the idea of depending on a ramp was hard to get used to. After all, she's survived using crutches since a series of back surgeries in 1999. Her therapists convinced her it would be a good idea both now and for the future to have a ramp on the front of her home, and Deb has slowly come around to the idea. After all, being able to get to and from the curb would reconnect her with the world, and bring her pal Madison home again.

"It'd mean my independence," Deb says.


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