|Wheelchair Bowling Devices for ALL
Persons and All Chairs
- Story in 3rd person by Bill Miller for KWNPF's Spinal Victory "OneStep" Newsletter -
Appeared in the Spring/Summer 2003 Edition
Former President Bush's "thousand points of light" program inspired retired engineer Claude Giguere to volunteer. Several years and many community-bettering efforts later, Giguere wound up volunteering in Judge Donna Miller's courtroom. It was there that he would see a picture of a young man in a wheelchair.
That young man was the Judge's stepson, Bill Miller, a quadriplegic on a ventilator since tripping and falling in his bedroom while in college, more than five years ago. The Judge explained that before his accident, Bill liked to bowl and she thought there must be a way he could do so again, by driving his wheelchair. She didn't have the expertise to design a device -- but Giguere did.
With his trademark enthusiasm, Giguere jumped at the idea to help. Claude and Bill hit it off right a way and they set out to make a potentially universal device so that Bill -- and hopefully everyone in a wheelchair -- could bowl. They started with a small device that fit over the footrests that would allow Bill to push the ball. Bowling in his power-wheelchair's top gear, Bill was fairly successful. In one of his first few games, he bowled a 65. Not too shabby for a guy who drives his wheelchair with his mouth, by sipping and puffing a straw-control device.
Miller and some of his friends formed the "Quad Squad," a power-chair bowling group.
But the speed of the ball was limited to the speed of the chair and the two inventors realized the need for more speed. So they started working on a ramp-style apparatus that would also fit over the footrests and attach to the wheelchair -- without touching the floor.
After a few learning experiences and ramp modifications, Bill went out and broke triple digits with a 122! Pretty impressive for a person who can't move or feel anything below his neck. A video of Bill bowling with the "Miller Bowler" can be downloaded from his website at www.lookmomnohands.net (actually, checkout my blog entry titled Two Videos and a Slideshow on Power Wheelchair Bowling, but nostalgic footage of the original wooden bowler is at the bottom of this page, keep reading!:).
After successfully developing the two devices, it was time for part two of the plan.
Making them available for everyone.
Enter Vince Tifer, a retired Tampa-area businessman and longtime friend of Giguere's.
Miller, Giguere, and Tifer (click here for a picture) formed MGT Corporation to seek patents on the two products, believing this to be the best way to bring them to market. With provisional patents in hand, the group is exploring manufacturing options and has contacted bowling giants AMF and Brunswick, as well as wheelchair manufacturers like Invacare, Pride, and Jazzy. MGT has now teamed up with an experienced executive named Tom Muckle, who specializes in manufacturing and distribution.
Tifer, who happens to have multiple sclerosis and uses a scooter-type chair to increase his mobility, can bowl with the push-style apparatus.
Miller, after a recent bowling outing with his partners, had this to say:
"Thanks for a great afternoon. Can you imagine how much fun people across the country might be having with our products in a year or two?
"I know that some people in wheelchairs simply don't get out much and when they do, there's not much they CAN DO. But it's truly quite remarkable that I -- a person who is completely paralyzed from the neck down and dependent on a machine to breathe -- CAN BOWL in a true sporting fashion and actively compete in a PHYSICAL sport! WOW!"
Here's to hoping people everywhere will be rolling and bowling soon.
Bill Miller :-)