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Steve Swain
HELP OTHERS: Started at Purdue University, AgrAbility is now a national program that conducts multifaceted activities to help those with special needs. Steve Swain, who works with the program, says the Bridging Horizons contest is one of those activities.

AgrAbility recognizes FFA chapters for community work

The Bridging Horizons contest encourages FFA chapters and other community groups to reach out to help those with special needs.

Members of the Franklin FFA Chapter were inspired when a friend of the chapter, former advisor Ashley Langreck, told them she needed a special device to help her 2-year-old daughter facing special challenges learn how to climb stairs. It’s something most 2-year-olds figure out on their own. However, Reagan Langreck, born with a condition that affects swallowing, has been on a feeding tube since infancy. She’s an intelligent 2-year-old, but she’s still figuring out how to do the physical things most kids her age can do.

What Reagan needed was a set of stairs that could be pushed up to a couch or stationary chair so she could practice climbing and walking up and down steps. The activity was suggested by a therapist.

Several FFA members and ag students went to work on the project. Alicia Geesey, Franklin FFA advisor, says a couple of students designed the stairs, complete with three steps and handles on each side to move it. A team of three students constructed it, two more students sanded it, and yet another two students applied a wood stain.

Successful outcome

Taylor Roy, chapter president, visited Reagan and her mom to see how the steps were being used. The little girl uses them both in therapy sessions and on her own for practice.

Steve Swain, a member of the Indiana AgrAbility team based at Purdue University in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, says these are the types of projects more chapters and local organizations could complete to help people in their community with special needs. Indiana AgrAbility sponsors a contest called Bridging Horizons; it’s open to any FFA chapter or community group that can document what it did for people with disabilities in the community.

Franklin FFA took first place in 2019 for submitting an entry about what it accomplished. There are cash awards each year for the top three winners. This year there was also a cash prize for the first 10 groups that sent in entries.

Swain says the idea is to encourage more groups to be aware of needs in their communities, organize a project and complete it so people with special needs can find help. One of the other winning entries this year was from a group that made picnic tables accessible for people with disabilities. In the past, winning entries have included projects designed to build sidewalks for people who had a hard time getting out of their house because there wasn’t a sidewalk.

Long track record

The Indiana AgrAbility effort started under Bill Field’s guidance in 1979 and was initially called Breaking New Ground. Field is the Purdue University Extension safety specialist who pioneered the program. Partially due to his efforts, it received national funding in 1990.

The National AgrAbility program is now a reality in many states, and receives funding as part of the farm bill passed by Congress. Field was instrumental in securing that funding.

Entries for the Bridging Horizons contest are typically due in mid-May each year. Visit the Indiana AgrAbility home page or call 800-825-4264 for more details.

Editor’s note: Reagan Langreck is the author’s granddaughter.

TAGS: FFA
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