NE Ohioans Helping Disabled Vets Live Better Lives

Marine veteran Lee Tomlin is working his team to develop a solution that will allow him to turn on devices with his voice. [ideastream/Darrielle Snipes]
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A friendly competition at St. Edward High School aims to come up innovative ways to improve the daily lives of veterans and other people with disabilities.

One of  the design, programming and engineering teams in this three-day "Challenge America: Makers for Veterans" event literally has been working around the clock to come up with a way to voice activate devices so Marine veteran Lee Tomlin can read or watch movies.

Lee Tomliin, a Marine Vet and his wife Robin. [ideastream/Darrielle Snipes]

Lee Tomlin and his wife Robin


Tomlin says an old gunshot wound suffered while serving in Puerto Rico in the 1970s and radiation to fight cancer left him a quadriplegic more than six years ago. He hopes that if a solution is developed to assist him, it can benefit others, too.

“I will be the guinea pig if it is going to help out other people," said Tomlin. “The main thing is I can't do much, but I am still trying to help other people and to serve the best way I can."

Tomlin's team is just one of seven working on innovated solutions during the three-day make-a-thon.  

The teams are comprised of  students and professionals from health care, software and biotech companies who are volunteering their time and expertise to solve problems and maybe change lives.

A member of a team working on a solution for a injured military vet

A member of a team working on a solution for an injured military vet. 

Some of the solutions in the works include a device to help a vet move from a wheelchair to a hand cycle, and  a prototype to help a wounded warrior get up and down from the floor so he can play with his baby.

Dallas Blaney, executive director of  Challenge America, says these hacks will help more veterans live fulfilled lives.  

“This really isn't just about the veterans,” he said. “When we help create solutions that make veterans more independent, it also releases a burden often placed on their families and friends. So the ripple effects of this are enormous. “

A device to help a vet deal with pain in his arm

A device created to help a  military vet suffering from pain in her arms. 

Challenge America is a Colorado-based non-profit helping injured vets. Here in Cleveland, it is partnering with Cleveland Clinic Innovations and the Department of Veteran Affairs for its first ever make-a-thon. Plans are already underway to hold another event here this fall.

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