July 18, 2023
A few years ago, Massachusetts State Senator Walter Timilty (Norfolk) recognized his neighbor, Brendan Cook, on the cover of REquipment’s annual report. This was during the annual Southeast Regional Legislative Breakfast (hosted by Easterseals and Old Colony Elder Services), an event designed to inform lawmakers of the value of disability programs for their residents. It was, needless to say, a lovely moment for our program. On our cover, Brendan stands smiling with support from a standing wheelchair he received from our inventory. This year, as we again advocate for REquipment’s funding, we decided to follow up with Brendan’s mom, Kathy Bosworth, and learn the big picture of REquipment’s role in Brendan’s life.
Kathy, we soon learned, is one of REquipment’s biggest fans. She first discovered REquipment during the pandemic when Brendan’s customized power wheelchair broke, and replacing it was nearly impossible. No-contact orders exacerbated the usual vendor delays; residents at Brendan’s group home spent months in lockdown to reduce the risk of infection.
For more than a year, Brendan had only a manual wheelchair and was dependent on others to get around. Ultimately, it took three years for his insurance-provided chair to arrive. Luckily, REquipment gave him another option.
“Brendan got a new power chair [from REquipment], a brand new chair,” Kathy emphasizes. “And he used that chair for over a year.”
REquipment is the only reuse program in Massachusetts that refurbishes power wheelchairs, and every now and then, a power chair is donated to us that’s hardly been used at all. Specialized chairs can cost upwards of $60,000, and while Brendan’s “new” chair wasn’t customized for him, “It really did the trick while he waited,” Kathy relays with obvious pleasure.
Empowered, Kathy began keeping her eye out for more equipment in our online inventory. She also requested brochures to pass around and made sure the other parents in her Zoom groups knew about the kinds of devices they might find at no cost from us. “These are things insurance just doesn’t cover,” she observes.
Over the next three years, Kathy obtained a specialized manual chair that could lift Brendan to a standing position, a lightweight supportive manual chair, a portable ramp for accessing the yard off their back deck, and her favorite: “The Weekend Stroller.”
“That’s what we like to call it,” she says of the adult stroller that’s now essential to their family. “It’s lightweight and folds into our car. It’s so easy for us, and he can just relax in it. Every weekend we take him to Costco. If we miss a week, they’ll say, ‘Hey, Buddy! Where’ve you been?’ And the man driving the forklift, he’ll beep for him. Brendan loves that.”
Brendan wasn’t always so social. Before The Weekend Stroller, he was anxious about going out because he didn’t do it so routinely. “Now we can just take him for a walk around the neighborhood. He’s just more comfortable around people.”
Brendan turned 34 on July 5th. For his birthday, Kathy held his annual BBQ. Brendan uses a manual wheelchair at home (from REquipment) because the manual chair fits easily through doorways. During his birthday parties, Brendan likes to be outside on the deck or inside playing music on his iPad. Because Kathy now has a ramp off the deck, he can join others on the grass, too. “He likes being there when other people are there,” she says.
This year, friends, family, and neighbors came to celebrate, including Sen. Walter Timilty. The senator, Kathy says, knows him and always waves and beeps when he sees him outside. He also knows Brendan from the statehouse. When Kathy shared pictures for this story, we learned that Brendan and Kathy advocate for legislation important to individuals with disabilities.
Thank you, Kathy Bosworth and Brendan Cook. Your advocacy means the world to Massachusetts residents with disabilities. We’re so grateful Sen. Walter Timilty understands the powerful positive impact the REquipment program has had on Massachusetts families.
Last fiscal year, REquipment reassigned $2.2 million worth of durable home medical equipment to people who need it. 29 tons of DME were diverted from solid waste facilities. Yet our program is at risk.
Do you have a REquipment success story to share with your state representatives? Learn why our funding is on the line this year and send a message to the statehouse.