In the 17 years since RampsRVA was established, it has worked to provide and assemble 530 (and counting) modular wheelchair ramps specifically for people in medical and financial need in Henrico County, Chesterfield County and the City of Richmond. These ramps allow wheelchair-bound people to have a safe means in and out of their homes. In addition, they increase access to medical care and help reconnect these people with their friends, communities and access to social services.
RampsRVA started as a Collegiate School service project in 2005. After three students – who remain on the board today – completed a local ramp build, they realized there was a significant need for other ramps in their community and started a nonprofit organization, now known as RampsRVA. The current board chair, Jim Dowd, is the father of one of the original student founders.
The nonprofit has not strayed far from its roots as a good number of its volunteers are local students. It also has eight operational high school clubs: Douglas Freeman, Deep Run, Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, Collegiate School, J.R. Tucker, Midlothian, Monacan and Mills Godwin.
“Students play such a vital role in allowing us to respond to ramp maintenance requests for years after ramps are built,” said Carson Wang, student director and Maggie Walker club president. “We have many student officers and interns across our clubs, and we believe we are building the next generation of leaders in our community.”
The student volunteers also help assemble ramps, recycle materials, participate in fundraisers and advocate for the cause to location organizations.
In addition to the student clubs, RampsRVA works closely with local corporations such as Dominion Energy and CarMax. The corporate partners will sponsor a build, which includes covering the cost of the materials and using their employees to build the ramps.
Amramp is a corporate partner of RampsRVA and the sole provider of its ramps, allowing for easy construction as well as featuring parts that can be reused multiple times to increase the impact of every dollar.
RampsRVA is funded by donations, grants from corporate partners and fundraising from the school clubs. Other corporate partners include Sheltering Arms, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and the Titmus Foundation. Chesterfield and Henrico County also include a couple of builds in their county budgets.
The need for accessible ramps in the Richmond community is ever-growing, and RampsRVA works to provide them for as many people as possible. It works with organizations such as the United Spinal Association of Virginia and VCU Health System to stay aware of patients who potentially are in need of a ramp and financially qualify.
RampsRVA also takes applications through its website.
“These individuals that ask for our help, some of them have been homebound for months at a time – missing doctor’s appointments and family gatherings,” said RampsRVA Executive Director Julia Ratliff. “Just the fact that they’re able to leave their front door without risk of falling or hurting themselves, it’s life changing for them.”