On 6th July, 17 members of the Enterprise Holdings team took part in a sponsored sky dive which raised over €6,000 for the DCU Exoskeleton Programme. The programme, which is a physiotherapist led service, allows people with reduced mobility due to paralysis to walk again wearing a robotic suit (exoskeleton) created by Ekso Bionics. The team at Enterprise Holdings were inspired to organise the fundraising event after hearing about the experiences of colleague Romina Afrasani, who was fortunate to access robotic rehabilitation through the Exoskeleton programme.
Through the Exoskeleton programme, service users complete supported walking sessions in the suit with a physiotherapist or trained handler. The programme provides a range of mental and physical health benefits for individuals living with paralysis caused by spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, stroke and other neurological conditions. Benefits reported by service users have included improved cardiovascular fitness and health, better lung function and bone density, improved sitting balance, the opportunity to return to employment, leisure and hobbies, increased functional independence in day-to-day activities, and improved quality of life, body image and self-worth.
In the 2021, the programme delivered 655 walking sessions to approximately 40 service users. From September 2022, the programme plans to significantly increase the number of walking sessions provided following the acquisition of a second exoskeleton suit, and to conduct further research that will contribute to the rapidly developing field of robotics in neuro-rehabilitation to inform how best to utilise the exoskeleton to deliver maximum benefits for its users. The funds raised by the Enterprise Holdings team will support this expansion as Ronan Langan, Clinical Lead of the DCU Exoskeleton Programme explains:
“The funds raised by Enterprise Ireland will allow for over 100 assisted walking sessions. This accounts for a full programme of rehab for at least seven people who are in need of this life changing technology. These walking sessions will of course result in improved physical health such as adding to walking ability, strength and organ function, but they will also have a positive impact on psychological health and sleep quality, improving overall health for service users.”
Gavin Ward, Senior Remarketing Account Manager with Enterprise Holdings explains why the team were keen to support the Exoskeleton Programme:
“At Enterprise Holdings, philanthropy is a big part of what we do and one of the core pillars that defines us as an organisation. When Romina identified the DCU Exoskeleton Programme as a project we could contribute to, it was something we really wanted to get behind. We like to take part in ventures that are personal to our employees and as Romina is a popular member of the company, staff were really keen to rally around the idea of fundraising for the project. We had seventeen members of staff take part in the skydive and we were really happy to be able to raise over six thousand euro for the Exoskeleton Programme in DCU.”
Romina Afrasani who has been using the DCU exoskeleton since May 2022 explains the difference the programme makes:
“It’s great to have the chance to use the exoskeleton and I felt really passionate about helping to grow the programme and to give others the opportunity to use the suit. I had an accident at just three years old so I would love to see the programme develop further to helping children as well as adults. It has been fantastic to have the support of the philanthropy committee at Enterprise Holdings and really encouraging to see staff so passionate about giving back to this cause which is so close to my heart.”
To find out more about the DCU Exoskeleton Programme and how you can help, please contact Claire Whelehan, Director of Philanthropy by emailing Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org.