Updated: May 23, 2018 07:13 PM
NASHWAUK, Minn. - At 4 years old, Reed Reuter can find endless adventure in his own backyard.
He loves exploring his family's 10 acres of land with his dad. But unless he is carried, that's been hard to do.
Reed has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, so his body doesn't gain muscle, and he can't walk.
"SMA is a neurological disorder that affects the body's ability to gain muscle," Reed's mom, Brittany Reuter, explained.
Brittany noticed some things weren't progressing as they should when he was still a baby. He was eventually diagnosed with SMA when he was a year and four months.
"When he was diagnosed, the prognosis was that he would progressively get weaker every single day until he was completely atrophied," Brittany explained.
But Reed's body is responding well to a new drug, and the Reuter lifestyle helps with the rest.
"People always ask us, 'How's he so strong?'" Brittany said. "And it's because he doesn't sit still."
Reed likes to go full speed on his power wheelchair and in life. Now, he's got even more momentum, thanks to three engineering angels.
Brittany and Reed went and spoke to an Itasca Community College class about how engineering and technology keep Reed mobile. She also shared about some of the obstacles he still has.
"I thought the end of the project was just us informing the students as guest speakers," Brittany said, "but a few months later, I was contacted by the students, and they had been doing some behind-the-scenes work."
With their professor's permission, Braeden Lawrence, Axel Valeri and Zach Mans tossed out the traditional syllabus and tackled a real-life problem. Braeden said he could relate to Reed's enthusiasm for nature.
"He liked the outdoors," Braeden said. "He liked spending time with his dad outside and other things like that, so we wanted to help him out a little bit."
The three students built a tracks system that is changing Reed's life. His power chair sits on top, held down by four ratchet straps. The tracks plug right in to his wheelchair, so he can control it using the steering already on his chair.
The students 3D printed the plugs with resources at ICC. A few donated parts and some eager outside funding also helped make it possible.
"The college wouldn't fund the entire project, so they needed a little help with that. So they reached out to Kids Kare Fund, and we unanimously as a board approved the application within ... fifteen minutes," Jessie Belle with the Kids Kare Fund said.
Belle and Aubrie Hoover, the vice president, said it was an easy project to embrace.
"At their age, to be like really excited and gung ho is just amazing to see," Hoover said.
"I'm glad to see that it's actually getting used," Braeden said.
Reed also zooms around on a four-wheeler, but his muscle weakness makes him tired. The tracks mean he can play longer.
"This is huge. This opened a huge door for us," Brittany said.
It opened a door to their own backyard.
"See? You need to mow the lawn right there!" Reed shouted to his dad, Cory.
"Why?" Cory asked.
"Because, see all that big grass?" Reed said.
And he now has space for new discoveries, like a bird's nest in his yard and the ability to ride in the water at the beach.
As for what's next for the ICC students, all three of them graduated, and all three are headed for Michigan Tech to continue studying engineering.
You can follow Reed's story on his Facebook page.
Updated: May 23, 2018 07:13 PM
Created: May 23, 2018 05:46 PM
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