Upgrading a home to provide wheelchair accessibility is a vital need for many families. Each May since 1993, dozens of families across King and Snohomish counties receive a ramp at no cost thanks to Rampathon, an appropriately named one-day sprint. During Rampathon, a group of volunteers from the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties and the community set out on a mission: to improve the lives of their neighbors by adding wheelchair-access ramps to the entrances of their homes.

With volunteer support and donated materials, Rampathon has constructed more than 500 ramps and contributed more than $2 million of in-kind contributions to the community. This year marks 26 years of the annual tradition, and if the past 25 years have been any indication, it’ll be another big year. As Rampathon 2019 approaches (to be held on Saturday, May 18), we’re interviewing a handful of our friends in the community who’ve participated in Rampathon over the years.

At Dunn Lumber, we value our relationships with our customers. We wanted to take some time to celebrate how our customers have been involved in our community.

Today we're hearing from Gary Potter, owner of Potter Construction. Gary started Potter Construction in 1979, and it has grown steadily ever since. In 2006, Potter Construction was named on one of the “Big 50—Top 50 Remodelers” in America by Remodeling magazine. Potter Construction has participated in Rampathon since the early 2000s.

preparing wheelchair ramp
Q: How did you first hear about Rampathon?

A: It seems to me that Riley Shirey talked to me at a Remodelers Council dinner and told me to get involved.

Q: How much planning is involved prior to the day?

A: I would say it takes two to three days' work total, but it’s spread out over time. We spend several hours over the months ahead of the build day looking at possible sites. Then, when we find out which one we’re assigned to and spend several more hours measuring and planning and making lists. The week before the build, we get the list filled at Dunn Lumber and confirm delivery—we might even meet the driver to drop it in the best place. Then, we spend time designing for any complications.

Q: What does the team do the day of?

A: We build the ramp! If we have to pour concrete, we might do that a day ahead, but we plan out each ramp so most of the time it can all be done in one day. We start deciding who’s in charge—we can’t have four lead carpenters all telling everyone else what to do. Then, we start laying out the jobsite—where the pile of lumber will be, where the saws will be, where the power is. There are usually a lot of people on site, so some of us just move things around to make it easier for the people cutting and hammering.

installing wheelchair ramp
Q: What has been your favorite project and why?

A: In 2015, we built a ramp for Summer—a girl who was about 10 years old, had a spinal condition, and used a wheelchair. They were a very happy family, very appreciative, and a lot of fun to work for. Another year, an aluminum ramp company donated a ramp for our project. Six guys from the ramp manufacturer showed up with the truck the day of and showed us how easy it was to put it together. We were done before 10 a.m.—before the pizza even showed up.

Q: How does Rampathon affect the team?

A: Everyone has positive feedback after the event. It’s the people building it the day of who are affected the most. One year, it was a small ramp for a 90-year-old woman who couldn’t navigate three stairs to her backyard. You could see how much she liked to garden, but the stairs were making it hard for her to get into the yard. The team all felt really good about that ramp—it could have easily been their grandma.

rampathon volunteers potter construction builds wheelchair ramps
Q: Would you recommend other businesses volunteer for Rampathon?

A: Yes, of course. It’s a good team-building event, especially for people who like to give back to the community.

Thanks, Gary! Stay tuned for more from Rampathon participants as we gear up for this year's event in May, and take a look at our recent interviews with other Rampathon participants Carlisle Classic Homes and Irons Brothers Construction.

If you're interested in volunteering for Rampathon, follow the link to sign up.