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REAL cares – Makers United for Children’s Hope Foundation

Makers United for Children’s Hope Foundation 2101

Makers United for Children’s Hope Foundation

By: Nicole Carbon

Photography By: Chuck Carroll & Julie Hirsch

Sitting across from me one recent afternoon, dressed in normal everyday attire, was a real, live super hero. I kid you not. Meet Zachary Hurst, Founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit Makers United for Children’s Hope Foundation (MUCH), whose board members include Ben Jayko, Laurie Sore, and Joe Davison. They make magic happen by uniting experts in the medical, engineering, and technology worlds who donate their extraordinary talent to help children in need. In turn, these makers get the rare opportunity to create profound differences in the lives of others using their professional skills. The miraculous impacts they are making through their involvement with the Foundation are ones they could never have dreamed to be possible.

Super powers are not new to Hurst, when he was in his early 20s, he had a business where he and his team would dress up like superheroes and visit very sick and dying children in the hospital. They could make a child smile for five or so minutes, but he knew that wasn’t enough and had a light bulb moment. His idea stemmed from the same concept of a flash mob, but instead of a group of entertainers, he’d gather a group of experts who could literally make a world of difference using their professional skills collaboratively to help these needy children and their families.

So, in January 2015 MUCH was formed and started with just 45 members, all volunteers, from organizations including 501st Legion, Guardians of Justice, and the Suncoast Ghostbusters. Soon after, Hurst grew his “cast” to include difference makers in the engineering, medical, and technology industries. Today, the Foundation is made up of 439 members who donate their time, skill, and equipment to make the unimaginable a reality to sick and disabled children.

“I thought if we could get these makers together, we would have the right people in place to change the world. What we do sounds impossible, but it’s not all that complicated. We make paths possible.”

Since starting the Foundation, the universe aligned with Hurst’s efforts attracting the right people who were on board with his mission and one day something unbelievable happened. Hurst connected with Easton LaChapelle, now 21-years-old, who built a robotic prosthetic arm from scratch using just a 3-D printer, Legos, fishing line, electric tubing, and small motors from airplane models when he was just 14-years-old.

LaChapelle kept experimenting to make his robotic invention better and perfected the hand with fingers that could move, unlike normal prosthetics, which can only grip a soda can. The improved robotic arm was operated by a Teensy Arduini microcontroller, amplifier circuits, and Bluetooth receivers. Movement worked by flexing muscles then blinking the eyes to coincide with assigned tasks like hand, elbow, or arm flexing, monitored by an EEG headset to control movements by measuring brainwaves.

Another astonishing fact, a normal prosthetic costs $80,000 and upward and needs to be replaced periodically because of natural human growth, LaChapelle’s first home-made version cost a mere $250. A team at Microsoft took notice and supported LaChapelle’s invention by donating their labs, technology, and funding. Now, these prosthetics can be built in just 15 hours.

The first recipient of this phenomenal invention was Momo Sutton, a 10-year-old from Orlando. This robotic hand with moving fingers and an exact replica of her fingernails replaced a hook she had been using since the age of four. Because of LaChapelle and the support of Microsoft, Momo is now fist bumping, making an A-Okay sign, a heart with her fingers, and her favorite, giving high-fives.

Momo Sutton

Delivering life-changing technical devices, vehicles with lifts, and home alterations to accommodate individual needs are just one part of what MUCH accomplishes. They also help with sight and hearing impairment and team up with the Friends of Down Syndrome Foundation, the Shriner’s Hospital, and other charitable organization(s) creating magnificent superpower experiences for children in need stretching far beyond their wildest imagination. Through these interactions the members of the MUCH Foundation are saving minds, which in turn, is saving lives.

“The things we get to do are incredible.”

A perfect example is Ty Verbanas, a seven-year-old with a life-threatening brain cyst needing emergency surgery. He had only a 27 percent chance of surviving it. Hurst promised Ty if he could just make it through, he’d get to spend another night with his favorite superhero, Batman. Just days before his surgery, thirty-five castmembers rushed to find a location and construct a life-size movie set of the Batcave in less than 46 hours then Ty was whisked away by Batman himself in the Batmobile to visit a real-live Batcave where he was greeted by Superman, Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern, and Spiderman–all members of the Foundation’s team.

Ty Verbanas

Ty made it through that surgery because he believed he had to “fight crime with Batman,” which was his first request after a 10-hour procedure and 48 hours in a coma.

With the help of Foundation supporters, Hurst says, “This is going to be the most extraordinary year because I finally have the ability to do what needs to be done.”

Hurst was inspired by Walt Disney, Bob Hope, P.T. Barnum, and Jerry Lewis. ”They were my heroes.” Today, we can add Hurst to that league.

You can support this extraordinary cause by visiting their website,
www.muchfoundation.org
www.facebook/muchfoundation
Makers United for Children’s Hope Foundation
(727) 251.7007
muchfoundation@gmail.com

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Copyright © 2018 REAL Exclusive Magazine www.getrealexclusive.com
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