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.
Using donated materials from Dunn Lumber, Rampathon participants will come together this year on Saturday, May 16, to construct the ramps. In honor of the event, we’re featuring a contracting partner each month on Dunn Solutions.
Today, we’re chatting with Daniel Bower, the lead carpenter of Jackson Design-Build (formerly known as Jackson Remodeling), a small construction firm that specializes in remodeling vintage homes here in Seattle. Jackson Design-Build has participated in Rampathon since 2005, and Daniel is now in his ninth year of Rampathon with the company. We sat down with Daniel to discuss his favorite memories from Rampathon, how the service event affects the greater community, and his hopes for Rampathon in the future.
Q: What’s your favorite Rampathon memory?
A: Every year is special in its own right. What immediately comes to mind, though, is the ramp we built three or four years ago for an older couple in their seventies. The wife had some fairly severe physical disabilities, but when we were done building the ramp, she was able to take herself out of her house and into the yard to enjoy the sunshine for the first time in two or three years. Before, she hadn't been able to go outside without physical assistance. That was a pretty special moment. The big smile on the ramp recipients’ faces at the end of the day is what everyone's in it for.
All the builds are equally happy but sometimes heartbreaking. A lot of the recipients are often elderly, and they can't afford a ramp. Even if they just have a walker and are relatively healthy, it can still be really difficult for them to get down a set of stairs and move in and out of their house freely. You can always see it in everybody's faces when we're done: it’s very freeing. I can’t imagine what it’s like to feel stuck in your own house and then suddenly be able to have freedom again. It tugs at you a little bit. You get a big old smile on your face sometimes. Maybe you get that feeling in the corner of your eye.
Q: Why do you volunteer with Rampathon?
A: Rampathon provides a good sense of camaraderie and teamwork. It's been my experience that everybody who volunteers to do it—whether they're an in-house employee, a friend or family member, or someone off the street who comes and participates—at the end of the day, you really feel like, Hey, we did something. This is cool. Rampathon creates a really positive impact on people's lives in not a whole lot of time. You'd be pretty hard-pressed to find anybody who said they didn't enjoy doing it.
The sense of reward at the end of the day outweighs everything else. We're all busy. We all have things going on during the weekends, but the satisfaction at the end of the day overcomes some of our other desires. You could go out on your boat or go hiking, but you can do that any other weekend. This is something special that only comes around once a year. And those good memories of having done it in the past just stick with people.
Even if all you show up with is a pair of work gloves and a smile, that's totally fine. There's plenty of volunteers who come and help who aren't carpenters at all. You can always help move materials. Oftentimes, you might do a little landscaping and move things around for the new footprint of the ramp. You might even just chitchat with the clients and help keep morale high. But I've taught plenty of people how to use a nail gun for the first time during Rampathon. MBAKS is always happy to send volunteers to lend a hand and do some good.
Q: How does Rampathon affect the greater community?
A: Sometimes when we build these ramps, neighbors will come over and lend a hand. Everyone up and down the block is aware of what's going on, and they share the joy. Usually you get at least one or two neighbors just wandering over, checking things out. A lot of these recipients have lived on the street for a long time and know all the neighbors, and the neighbors know the recipients have been having trouble. It’s really good for the neighbors to see their friends out and enjoying life a little bit more. People like seeing improvement in their community, and they like seeing their neighbors able to get out of their houses again and be safe.
Q: What are your hopes for Rampathon in the future?
A: It'd be great to keep seeing more and more ramps get built. The last few years, there’s been somewhere between 45 to 50 ramps built. You think about the materials, manpower, and coordination for deliveries that go into around 50 ramps on a single day in a single year—that's quite a bit of effort. As long as there are companies out there willing to build ramps and Dunn lumber and MBAKS are willing to organize it, it'd be great to keep seeing more ramps get built over a more widespread area.
Stay tuned for our next Rampathon profile. In the meantime, check out last month’s profile, featuring Home Run Solutions, and some of last year’s features, including Irons Brothers Construction and Tenhulzen Residential.
To learn more about volunteering with or donating to Rampathon, visit mbaks.com/giving-back/rampathon.