USING THE PARAMOBILE
USING THE PARAMOBILE
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Discovering the Paramobile “was a life-changing moment for me,” says Mark Boucher of Corpus Christi parish in Round Lake.

Now, the Mechanicville native is striving to help people in the Albany Diocese with physical disabilities through the Stand Up and Play Foundation and its signature device.

The Paramobile looks like a regular wheelchair, but allows users to stand up while strapped in. Anthony Netto, head of the foundation, helped develop the Paramobile as an aid for disabled golfers, but it’s become a way for individuals with disabilities to maintain active lives, participating in other sports and activities.

Mr. Boucher is one of those individuals. A self-described “workaholic,” he has fought his share of battles. Still, when asked about his life, he’s quick to say he is blessed.

The director of the local chapter of the Stand Up and Play Foundation, Mr. Boucher has been battling multiple sclerosis for more than 30 years. He has also beaten cancer three times and, last year, suffered a stroke.

“People say, ‘How can you say you’re blessed?’” he told The Evangelist. But Mr. Boucher is too optimistic and passionate to let any obstacles defeat him.

Getting involved

The Stand Up and Play Foundation is a volunteer-based non-profit. The foundation currently has 12 chapters across the country; Mr. Boucher started the Albany Capital District chapter.

Just over a year ago, Mr. Boucher and his wife were visiting their summer home in South Carolina and took a trip to a local golf course with their three sons. Before MS, Mr. Boucher was a six-handicap golfer. He said it was “traumatic” for him when he became unable to play anymore.

While using his scooter on the golf course, Mr. Boucher was approached by Steve Garza, a member of the Stand Up and Play Foundation, who asked if he would like a chance to play golf again:.

“I said, ‘Who would I have to kill?’” Mr. Boucher recalled.

Mr. Boucher was strapped into the Paramobile, and the rest is history: “I stood up for the first time on my own in five years,” he said. Standing on the same level, “I locked my eyes with my wife for the first time in five years. Emotionally, it was like winning the lottery.”

“It was quite a moment,” said his wife, Jackie. “It was awesome to see the look on his face.”

Powering through

Mr. Boucher believed God put the Paramobile in his life for a reason — but as soon as the family returned home from their trip, Mr. Boucher suffered his stroke.

“God works in mysterious ways,” he said.

While he was recovering at Sunnyview Hospital in Schenectady, the Bouchers approached the hospital with an idea of co-owning a Paramobile. Each Paramobile costs $25,000.

Sunnyview agreed. In August 2017, the hospital acquired its first Paramobile.

During the week, the device is used with patients for physical therapy. On the weekends, Mrs. Boucher picks it up and takes it to Van Patten Golf Course in Jonesville, where he offers free golf lessons and information about Paramobiles. Other golfers with disabilities come every week to use the Paramobile.

Mr. Boucher described a patient at Sunnyview who became a paraplegic after a fall while horseback riding: With the Paramobile, she was able continue training horses even after her accident.

“When you’re in it, you feel like a whole person again,” he said. “You can fish; you can shoot archery; you can [play] bocce.”

Since the local Stand Up and Play Foundation chapter’s inception, Mr. Boucher has helped to bring three more Paramobiles to the Albany Diocese: two for Van Patten Golf Course and another that Mr. Boucher keeps in his van.

Keep going

Mrs. Boucher, who helps to run the Capital District chapter of Stand Up and Play, said the moments when people stand for the first time on their own “is the stuff that makes you want to keep doing it.”

The chapter currently has 13 board members working to bring as many Paramobiles to the area as possible. One of the most recent new board members is Jim Nolan, former Siena College dean of business, who became a quadriplegic after a bicycle accident in 2010.

With help from grants and avid fundraising, the Capital District chapter has raised $90,000 in the past eight months.

At Corpus Christi parish, Mr. Boucher recently demonstrated the Paramobile during Mass and talked about the impact it’s had on his life and others. Parishioners responded by donating $2,500 to Stand Up and Play.

“He has people in tears about what this means for people,” said Rev. Rick Lesser, pastor. “He and his wife do a tremendous amount of good.”

Mr. Boucher hopes to bring 20 Paramobiles to the Diocese by 2020.

“God will give me all the rest I need when he needs me. Now, I’ve got too much work to do,” he said.

(For more information, contact Mr. Boucher at 518-423-3398 or meboucher327@gmail.com. For upcoming Stand Up and Play events, see the chapter’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SUPCapitalDistrictNY.)