For about 10 years, while his children played in Rogue Valley parks, Michael Foster sat on the sidelines, often confined to his wheelchair.
But now, thanks to an innovative mobility device made in Ashland, he regularly goes on runs and bike rides with his four kids and his dog.
Learn more about GlideCycles and test out the latest model of the mobility device every Monday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at the Ashland National Guard Armory, 1420 E. Main St. For more information call 292-7520.
When he's running with his GlideCycle, the Medford resident often forgets he's an amputee, he said. The bike-like device makes users feel almost weightless, enabling people who are disabled, injured or overweight to get aerobic exercise without straining their bodies.
"The GlideCycle enabled me to get out of a sitting position. It got my left leg built up and I immediately lost so much weight, so that now I can wear my prosthetic leg all day," said Foster, who lost his right leg in a work accident. "I'm finally living life after sitting down for 10 years."
Foster's story and others like it have appealed to investors who are eager to fund a business venture that will turn a profit — and help people.
"Other than the obvious fact that this is another manufacturing company that is recession resistant, there is a much larger vision here, which is giving people who have not had mobility or have had limited mobility for a long time, the ability to run," said Richard Bosenko, vice president of business and channel development for GlideCycle.
GlideCycle was one of six Oregon companies to make it to the final round of Angel Oregon 2009, a funding competition for start-up companies held in Portland last week.
Although the Ashland-based business did not win a cash award in the competition, which was sponsored by the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, it still may receive funding from some of the investors at the event, Bosenko said.
"I think it was an outstanding venue for us because we got visibility and access to the venture capital group. Just that exposure is really good," he said.
Immediately upon receiving funding, the company will begin manufacturing hundreds of GlideCycles in the Rogue Valley, Bosenko said.
Ashland resident David Vidmar created the two-wheeled mobility device after a knee injury forced him to stop running — or find a way to reduce the toll it took on his body.
Vidmar's invention has been Foster's salvation, enabling him to get out of his wheelchair and into nature with his kids, he said. Foster now serves as a disability spokesman for the company because he wants to share his story with other amputees.
"I've been through this for 10 years and I don't want to see people waste their lives away when they can be out there with their kids," he said.
Hannah Guzik is a staff writer for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 482-3456 ext. 226 or email@example.com.