S. Oregon nonprofit aims to help mobility impaired people at the beach

SEASIDE, Ore. (KGW) — In this week’s Let’s Get Out There, KGW heads to Seaside, Oregon to meet the people increasing beach accessibility for people with mobility challenges.

A good day can usually be found anywhere the sand and surf shake hands. At the Oregon coast, there’s plenty to see, and plenty to take in.

“I love it, the Oregon coast, getting on the sand and just feeling the midst of the ocean. It’s pretty powerful,” said David Furst.

There’s nothing like stepping out on the beach and getting your feet wet. But what if that’s not an option for you? Furst has made it his life’s work to find a way for you to experience it.

“We have so many people just longing to get to the ocean and the water’s edge, and they can’t do that because of mobility challenges. And when people reach out to us, it’s almost 90% of them saying that they want to get back on the beach.”

Furst is the CEO and founder of David’s Chair, a nonprofit enriching the lives of people with mobility challenges by giving them independence to engage in outdoor activities they’ve never been able to.

David’s Chair and Oregon Parks Forever teamed up with organizations in the city of Seaside to bring an electric all-terrain track chair to a fixed site location at the Elks Lodge 1748.

It’s a standing chair, meaning it can straighten the user up to a standing position. A harness keeps you in place, giving many an opportunity they haven’t had in years, if ever. Just a couple blocks from the promenade, people can check out the chair free of charge for two hours at a time. Reservations can be made at DavidsChair.org.

“You don’t have to be paralyzed, be an amputee, have muscular dystrophy, ALS,” said Furst. “If you just have mobility issues that make it difficult for you to walk or to get around, especially on the sand, come use the chair, take it to the water’s edge, stand up, put your feet in the ocean. The chairs are for anybody with mobility challenges, and that’s what we really want to…. that’s the message we really want to get out to people.”

Another track chair was recently delivered to the Manzanita Visitors Center as well. The hope is to deploy ten chairs at different locations across the Oregon coast in the next few years.

Not only will these chairs give people independence, but freedom for friends or family who usually push a wheelchair — very difficult to do on sand.

U.S. Army Veteran Richard Gilliam got to take the chair for a test spin on the beach.

“This is the best thing in the world!” Gilliam said smiling. He walks with a cane, but acknowledged there’s no way he could maneuver the sand without tripping and falling. The track chair made for an effortless trip to and from.

The cost of the chair — almost $20,000 — was covered by fundraising efforts thanks to Oregon Parks Forever, a partner nonprofit whose mission is enhancing and increasing accessibility at Oregon’s parks.

“What we want to do at David’s Chair is give everybody outdoor recreation access,” Furst said. “They don’t have to worry about the maintenance on the chairs. They don’t have to worry about storing or transporting them.”

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