When a child in Darrel Ford’s school saw Darrel for the first time, the little boy’s eyes lit up. That’s because Darrel uses a power chair and the child has a wheelchair, too.
Darrel, 48, of Bayport, New York, is a Speech-Language Pathologist who conducts speech and language therapy with children with speech and language disorders in the Brentwood School District on Long Island. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001 and struggled with a cane until a mutual friend of his and the owners of Pride, Scott and Dan Meuser, told him about the company.
Darrel knows the Meusers as he attended Babylon High School on Long Island with them. He says all three played football together, with Scott Meuser being the quarterback and Darrel the center.
“I knew that at some point something was going to happen but I did not know much about power chairs,” Darrel said. And then it all came out of that.”
Darrel now uses a Jazzy® 614 power chair at school and a Z-Chair at home and at his son’s soccer games. Without the assistance of his chairs, Darrel feels he would likely not be able to teach in his school and support his wife, Jenny, and their 3-year-old son, Eamonn. He is also grateful the chairs allow him to spend more quality time with his family.
“I’m sure the chairs will allow me a much greater possibility to take part in my son’s life,” Darrel said. “Whether it’s at the zoo, the museum or my son’s soccer games, these things would not be possible without my chairs. With the chairs, I’ll be able to do anything we want to do.”
Darrel’s power chairs have also presented him with unexpected opportunities at school. One such instance was becoming a positive example for children in the school who use a wheelchair.
“There are two children in my building in wheelchairs and let me tell you, the first time they laid eyes on me in a chair I had a very strong feeling that it was important to them,” Darrel said. “I think the fact that I am relaxed in mine makes them feel more comfortable.”
Other children in the school, including Darrel’s students, ask him questions about his Jazzy and noticed when he brought his Z-Chair instead one day. Darrel likes to tell them that he went to Babylon High School on Long Island with the men who make the chairs and sell them around the world. Darrel feels the story shows the children there are many possibilities in life.
Darrel also uses his Jazzy as a way to illustrate to his students, some of whom have learning disabilities, that having a disability does not have to prevent them from accomplishing their goals.
“I think that they do relate to the fact that I have some problems also,” Darrel said. “I’ve even used it at times for the older kids, that just because you have problems doesn’t mean you can’t do your best or try hard.”
Recently, Darrel wrote Scott and Dan Meuser a letter about his satisfaction with Pride.
“The equipment that I am using regularly now has greatly improved my life and made it possible for me to continue to work, provide for my family, and have some legs left at the end of the day for my son,” Darrel wrote in the letter. “I wouldn’t be working at this point, in this school, if it wasn’t for your excellent equipment and the access that I have been afforded.”
Scott Meuser said he was happy to learn that Pride’s products have bettered the life of his former classmate.
“When I knew Darrel in high school, he was always a bundle of energy both physically and intellectually,” Scott said. “Whether on the football field or in the classroom or just joking around, he was always living life to the fullest. It’s good to see he hasn’t changed and that our products are helping him do the very important things he wants to do now – like teaching his students and being a great dad to his son. It’s a great feeling whenever I hear that Pride products are making a big difference in someone’s life, but when it’s an old friend like Darrel it’s really special.”