FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Kevan Chandler has spinal muscular atrophy and gets around in a wheelchair, but to help pursue his dream of going to Europe he and his friends made a backpack for him. Last summer he went on that adventure, which he called his dream. Now he’s making backpacks for others with similar dreams.
“What I love is people will write to us and say ‘we’ve been looking for something like this,'” Chandler said.
Those messages come from places like Colorado and Georgia and even as far away as Spain and Brazil. After his European adventure last year Chandler didn’t slow down. He helped release a documentary, he’s writing a book, he started a non profit, and he’s helping create a backpack like his for the masses.
“We said [to the company] we have people who are interested so what if we teamed up with you and developed a professional version,” Chandler said.
Chandler and his friends teamed up with the German company Deuter. They have their first prototype of the backpack. It includes several cushions to relive street points, stirrups, a kick stand and even places for hiking sticks. Chander’s backpack for his European vacation started out as a Deuter toddler carrier. Then he, his friends and his dad manipulated it with different parts to comfortably fit Chandler.
There are still some tweaks to be made to the first prototype.
“We’ve realized somethings that worked for me won’t work for other people,” Chandler said. “We’ll be adding something similar to the stirrups but up for the wrists.”
When the backpacks are ready for sale Chandler hopes people can apply for a backpack then he and his friends can hand deliver it.
“[We want to] teach them how to use the pack and also how to work together,” Chandler said.
As for prices, a regular Deuter toddler carrier costs about $300, and Chandler wants to keep his backpack around that price.
“We want it to be a reasonable thing that a parent with a disabled child is not paying any more than a parent with an able bodied child, and they can have the same experience,” Chandler said.
Chandler and his friends have helped create similar backpacks for three families. One family in Fort Wayne, one in Atlanta and one in Colorado. He said giving them is an even greater experience than his time in one.
Chandler hopes to have a final model by the end of the year.