Good Cause: Web designer brings track chairs to veterans

A local Air Force veteran uses a trackchair to maneuver through a sea of flags over terrain that wheelchairs often get stuck. A Naperville businessman has started a campaign to raise funds to buy trackchairs that veterans can borrow.  |  Submitted
A local Air Force veteran uses a trackchair to maneuver through a sea of flags over terrain that wheelchairs often get stuck. A Naperville businessman has started a campaign to raise funds to buy trackchairs that veterans can borrow. | Submitted

Army veteran Bob Ariola is just the person who Scott Flak wants to help. Flak, a Naperville resident and owner of Second City Web Design, is launching a fundraising drive to buy a track chair to loan out to disabled veterans. Flak wants to help them participate in activities they had to give up after their injuries.

A motorcycle accident left Ariola, 50, a quadriplegic in 1988 when he was on active duty, and while he has a power wheelchair that gets him around, it doesn’t cover certain types of terrain very well. The Bartlett resident wanted to take up hunting, but it wasn’t possible with the wheelchair he was using.

“I was very limited in where I could go and what I could do,” he said, adding that a bolt on his power chair would get caught on everything.

To hunt with his friends, they had to remain with him at all times especially with the icy and muddy conditions that prevail in the Midwest.

“I would essentially get stuck every time,” he said.

But now that he has his own track chair, courtesy of television personality Bill O’Reilly’s Independence Fund, life has changed.

“It gets me to any location,” Ariola said. “It has maximized my independence greatly.”

He can fish and even play paintball. And when he hunts, his friends can leave him alone because he won’t get stuck.

Flak wanted to make this kind of difference.

“I’m at that point in my life I want to make an impact,” the Naperville Central High School graduate said.

Flak is partnering with AllenForce’s VETANK program. All the funds raised will go to VETANK to purchase chairs that will be loaned out to veterans for a week at a time or made available at various area events. The base cost of each chair is $10,500; however, these models are without accessories like fishing pole mounts. A standup chair costs $17,000.

AllenForce was created by Plainfield’s Donna Sebok who has worked with disabled people her entire career. But she also lost her father who was on active military duty in 1970 when she was a year old. Allen was his first name, and starting the organization has helped her learn more about the man she never really knew — and help others, too.

“Many veterans may not have full-time jobs because of their disabilities,” she said. “They live paycheck to paycheck and may not be able to afford to put gas in their cars.”

The chairs give them more independence especially in situations people might not think of. Recently, the chair was loaned out to a World War II veteran so he could reach his wife’s grave for her funeral.

Naper Nuts and Sweets is one of his clients who is helping out. Owner Dominique Martucci, who has long supported the military, will put a card with information about Flak’s cause into every customer bag through July.

Martucci says it was easy to decide to help because she believes in Flak. He might have created her website, but he has never charged her for posting letters or photos from people who are serving.

“I knew where his heart is,” she said.

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