Each spring, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS) hosts Rampathon, a one-day sprint where volunteers build wheelchair ramps for those in need at no cost to the recipients. Since the annual event began in 1993, MBAKS and its partners have built over 500 ramps for families across King and Snohomish Counties.
This year’s Rampathon was set to take place on Saturday, May 16, but due to COVID-19, the event has been put on hold with the hopes of continuing this tradition later in 2020. Although the build has been postponed, we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to highlight one of our contracting partners and Rampathon as a whole. We hope to see the event rescheduled on the other side of the pandemic.
Today, we’re chatting with Isaac Gaspar of Gaspar’s Construction—a family-run design, build, and handyman team that’s participated in Rampathon since its inception. Isaac’s father Rich Gaspar founded the company in 1973, and Isaac grew up working through the ranks. Now a production manager, Isaac leads the Rampathon team. We sat down with Isaac to discuss his favorite memories from Rampathon, challenges he’s faced, and his hopes for Rampathon in the future.
Q: Why do you volunteer with Rampathon?
A: It's one way we can help people and combat the homelessness crisis. I was born and raised in Seattle. I'm not a transplant. I grew up on Capitol Hill, in an area of the city that has changed drastically over the last 40 years. “Traffic” wasn't a word we knew as kids. I saw the community change. I saw the population density increase and the wealth gap grow. It's really hard to afford to do home maintenance when you can't afford to eat. Rampathon is about giving back and helping individuals stay in their homes so they can still be members of our community. It's very important to me. I want to keep the community feel in our community.
A ramp could be the difference between having to go into a care facility and being able to live in the comfort of your own home. As residential remodelers, we go into people's homes all the time. We're very comfortable being in other people's homes, but Rampathon is a different experience. You don't realize what you have—a place of your own where you don't have to put on a façade or live for somebody else and their vision of what you should be doing. It’s being able to relax and have your own space.
Q: What’s one of your favorite Rampathon memories?
A: The ramp we did last year was for a husband and wife who had lived in their house for 35 years. The house had seen better days, not because they weren't trying to take care of the house—but because they couldn't. She had a walker, and he was in a wheelchair. Their kids had to come by all the time to help them. At the end of the day, once we were done, they were each going up and down the ramp. It was the first time they could access their home without having to be lifted up the stairs. We had to go back to finish the concrete later that week, and they were glowing. The homeowners were super happy. They had a new, accessible way to get into their home, and their kids no longer had to help them get in and out of the house.
Q: What challenges have you run into during Rampathon?
A: Last year I designed two ramps to be done with two teams. The week before we started, one of the homeowners decided he didn’t want the ramp. But we had a bunch of people who really wanted to help, so we re-caulked showers, fixed gutters, cleaned the roof, and pulled weeds. We made hay while the sun shined. It was, “What can we do while we're here? How can we help in any way, shape, or form?”
Q: Why is Rampathon important to your team?
A: We have many different people who work at Gaspar's, so there's a lot of skill sets—we have sales staff, accounting staff, a design team, carpenters, leads, and handymen. There are a ton of levels of ability. The most fun part is getting to see somebody who doesn't have as much hands-on experience learning a new skill, whether it’s mixing concrete, placing anchor bolts, screwing down waterproof plywood, figuring out the slope of the ramp framing, or using the concrete saw. It's really cool to see a bunch of people get to use skills they didn't know they had on projects they hadn’t encountered before.
In the Seattle area right now, there’s a need for experienced carpenters. There’s a lack of trained people to do the job. In-house, we are really working on training and improving our people’s skills, and Rampathon is a great opportunity to start that exposure.
Q: What are your hopes for Rampathon in the future?
A: To continue to be able to give back to our community. As long as there are folks out there who can't afford the ramps they need, we will be volunteering to help.
To learn more about volunteering with or donating to Rampathon, visit mbaks.com/giving-back/rampathon.