UM Rehab purchases motorized cart that helps disabled athletes stand while playing sports

BALTIMORE (WMAR) - The last time Deneen Sherrod hugged her husband fully standing up was around four years ago. On a dreary Tuesday morning, she was able to do it again.

"I made him get up and dance with me and I had to kind of hold him up, so it felt good to be able to hold onto him [this time]," said Sherrod.

Adrian Sherrod was able to stand without leaning or having to support himself thanks to the ParaGolfer. 

It's the University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopaedic Institute's newest tool. They were able to purchase one at a discount for $23,000 using proceeds from their 2017 golf tournament.

Sherrod was able to try out the motorized cart through the adaptive golf program.

Pam Cauley, patient navigator and coordinator of the adaptive golf program at UM Rehab, has been with the program since it began 27 years ago.

What started as one-day sessions has evolved into six-week clinics and a 10-week practice league. 

Cauley said they have specialized golf carts but nothing that allows players to stand and swing.

"When someone can stand and not have any barriers with their legs in the way or anything like that, it's just a real boost for the self-esteem and also medically just being able to stand and participate," said Cauley.

Anthony Netto invented the ParaGolfer after seeing how bed sores plagued even the most athletic competitors with disabilities.

"I said, 'Well, why don't we do things standing?' That was the problem. There were a lot of standing frames, they were very uncomfortable, so I decided make a standing frame that was comfortable, put it in on a wheelchair that's like a humvee, get outdoors and then I can go fishing, shooting, and golfing," said Netto, who is also the founder of the Stand Up and Play Foundation.

Eleven years later, the ParaGolfer is being sold and donated to wounded veterans, something he relates to.

"[I was] shot in Africa, and I decided I was going to help my brothers because I was helped," Netto said.

It makes him feel good to see how his invention helps people try new things and do things they once were able to, like hug hands-free.

Seeing the Sherrods unite was an unexpected yet therapeutic benefit for Netto who has suffered from survivor's guilt.

"It really is for me. It answers a few questions why I survived," said Netto.

Netto hopes to lower the cost of the ParaGolfer in the future once it's mass-produced. Cauley also said she hopes the program is able to purchase more.

If you'd like to get involved with the UM Rehab adaptive golf program, you can contact Cauley by email pcauley@umm.edu or phone 410-448-6320.

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