By William K. Alcorn
Grateful tears came to his eyes the first time Rick Ware used a wheelchair ramp built for him by labor-union volunteers.
“The ramp gives me freedom. Before, I was stuck in the house unless someone carried me,” said Ware.
His pelvic bone was disconnected when his motorcycle struck a car that pulled in front of him on U.S. Route 224 just west of Tippecanoe Road on May 17.
Unable to avoid hitting the car, Ware was thrown 30 feet by the impact and lost consciousness after hitting the pavement, suffering a concussion among other injuries.
The last things Ware remembers are that he was riding east from his Canfield home toward Boardman on an errand when he saw a driver making a left turn from Seville Drive onto Route 224, which he said is “almost impossible” because of the heavy traffic.
Ware swerved but was unable to avoid the car. Just before impact, he saw a small child in its back seat, and then everything went blank until he began to wake up in the St. Elizabeth Health Center trauma unit.
Ware said a nurse who stopped to help told him what happened immediately after the crash.
She said he was airborne for 30 feet before landing face down on the busy highway. Cars swerved to avoid hitting him. A moving van stopped and gave him blankets. A man knelt and prayed over him and got up and just walked away. She said Ware talked to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, but he said he doesn’t remember.
“She [the nurse] stayed with me the whole time. It’s a miracle. I’m 58. I’m lucky to be alive,” he said.
He said he is also lucky that the AFL-CIO and the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley came through for him with the wheelchair ramp built June 15 at the home of his sister, Vicki Dillon, in Petersburg where he is living while he recovers.
Building handicap-access ramps is a joint project of United Way and the AFL-CIO Mahoning-Trumbull County union counselors, said Gary “Rabb” Marinelli, AFL-CIO Community Services representative at United Way.
People in the community who need a ramp contact United Way; they are screened for financial aid by Help Hotline, and put on a list. Tony DiTommaso, business agent for Carpenters and Joiners Local 171, inspects the project site and makes a materials list, Marinelli said.
“Everything we build meets Ohio code,” he said.
Funding, which comes from United Way and donations from building trades, unions and others, has a lot to do with how many projects are done. Three or four projects now are on the books, he said.
In almost every case, the people who need the ramp don’t have the money to pay for it themselves. “It’s very satisfying to give something back to the community,” Marinelli said.
It was particularly satisfying to help Ware, who works in heating and air conditioning at Roth Brothers and is a pipefitter and sheet metal worker.
Members of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396, Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 33, and Youngstown District Carpenters and Joiners Local 171 who worked on Ware’s ramp are: DiTommaso, Crystal Hoskinson, Joe Shurtleff, Gary Mauk, Travis Hoskinson, Don Marapese, Justin Rance, Joe Rance, and Marinelli.
“We are all very grateful for their caring and help,” Dillon said.
Ware, a native of Petersburg and a 1974 graduate of Springfield Local High School, is the son of Elmer Ware of Petersburg and the late Betty Ware. Other Ware family members in the area include his sister, Ginny Ware of Fairfield Township; a brother, Steve Ware of North Jackson; and two children, Colton and Cryssie Ware, both of Canfield.
SDLqUntil you are actually helpless, you take things for granted and don’t re ally understand what handicapped people go through. This ramp is a huge deal for me,” he said.
“I count my blessings every day. I figure God put me in this wheelchair for a reason,” Ware said.