Can’t is not a word that 19-year-old Kevin Enners likes to use. Kevin died twice in the minutes after he was born. He was starved of oxygen for around 10 minutes and as a result he has cerebral palsy. His speech and his movement are severely impaired, but he is a first class student with a determined streak that marks him out. Doctors say he is a born fighter and his family add that Kevin has a competitive spirit.
Disabled Teenager Trains For Marine Corp Marathon With Help From Active Hands
At a young age he told his father, Rich Enners, that he wanted to race. Today, the pair are a familiar sight in their home town of Marietta, Georgia, where they regularly train for half marathons and other events. Rich runs behind Kevin, who uses a specially-adapted bike to help steer them to success.
For a long time Kevin suffered set-backs in his daily training and at races because he is involved in a constant fight against his own body. He suffers from Dystonia, which means he is beset by involuntary muscle movements; as a result he has struggled when it comes to gripping things, including his handlebars.
His dad Rich explains: “We tried lots of different devices and found things that helped but nothing that really solved the problem, which was frustrating for Kevin. He is such a determined young man it spurred us on to try and find something that could help him feel more comfortable.
“For a long time we wrapped bandages around his wrists to help him grip and used lots of Velcro to stop them from falling off. This did work for a long time, but they always wore out eventually and I needed to keep making new ones for Kevin. Once we tried out the gripping aids from Active Hands we never looked back, and have been using them ever since.”
The Enners’ determination is seldom matched but Rob Smith, who runs a company called Active Hands, shares Kevin’s aversion to the word can’t. In 1996 Rob, who was then aged 20, suffered a high-level spinal cord injury, which left him with partial paralysis in all four limbs.
He underwent intensive treatment and eventually Rob managed to complete his degree course in engineering. After graduating he felt frustrated by the limited range of equipment available to help people with disabilities to grip. As a result, he designed Active Hands gripping aids, which enable people to firmly hold things, such as a hammer or trowel, to lift weights, or to use a computer console and in Kevin Enners’ case, to hold onto handlebars.
For the Enners, the discovery of the gloves that grip have given them the push to continue with their bid to complete a number of competitions in the coming months.
They are training for the Marine Corps Marathon with the Push America Team, which takes place in Arlington, Virginia, in the fall, in a bid to achieve a qualifying time to enter next year’s Boston Marathon.
Kevin said: “The gloves are great; they give me control and confidence.” Rich added: “We are big fans of the grips. We have told as many people as possible about them because they have made such a big difference to Kevin’s sense of control. They are well-designed and high quality and can help people to undertake challenges they might not have thought possible. ”
Rob Smith of Active Hands, said: “I’m so pleased that we’ve been able to help Kevin. He’s an inspiring young man and it is good that he has the confidence in what I have designed. I want people who have disabilities to feel that there is an alternative and to try things that they did not think possible.”
Kevin Enners recently finished his first year at Kennesaw State University, which is north of Atlanta, where he won an Emerging Leadership Award. He was asked to be on the Presidential Commission on Disabilities and wrote for the school paper. Kevin uses a computer that allows him to type using eye movement and he has completed a couple of novellas. The latest is being reviewed and he plans to enter it in several competitions.
Active Hands produces a range of gripping aids to help adults and children with reduced hand strength, movement or control, to grip items independently and enjoy a more active and fulfilling life. The company sells its products worldwide via an online shop and through distributors across Europe, the USA and in the UK.