“New York City” roars Becky, 27, in absolute delight as she basks in the sunshine in Central Park. For Becky, visiting New York City has been a lifelong dream and today it became a reality. Becky, who lives with Cerebral Palsy and Arthrogryposis, faces travel challenges due to her dependence on an electric wheelchair. These challenges include her need for around the clock support, medication/personal aid, transportation issues, accessible airfare and lodging. All of these can be a burden to tackle alone. So Becky, with the help of her mom Susan, reached out to Hammer Travel for help.
Hammer Travel is a service offered by a long-time provider out of Minnesota, Hammer Residences, Inc. Since 1923, Hammer Residences, Inc., a nonprofit organization has helped thousands of adults and children with developmental disabilities experience life to the fullest. A few years ago a challenge was given to employees to find a new way that Hammer could expand on their mission. Longtime employee, Josh Senso had the solution.
“Travel is an important piece of anyone’s life. It allows us to make new friends, have new experiences and live a well-rounded life,” explains Senso, Director of Hammer Travel. “Hammer has an extensive history of helping individuals with developmental disabilities live full lives in their communities and adding a travel service was the perfect extension of our mission.”
Since being founded in 2009, Hammer Travel has operated over 50 group trips focusing on a person-centered experience for its travelers. Today their services also include family services, customized travel services, and conference/convention services. However, their core mission is always the same; helping people achieve their travel dreams no matter what the obstacles.
Becky’s dream of visiting New York City was met with obstacles including difficult streets to a maneuver in her electric wheelchair, a shortage of cabs with wheelchair accessibility, and difficulty navigating the subway system. With the help of Hammer Travel’s trip leaders, Becky and 5 other individuals with developmental disabilities, where able to have a great experience. This included attending a taping of The Today Show and meeting many of the hosts including Al Roker, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry. The group also went to the Statue of Liberty, visited the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center and saw “Wicked” on Broadway.
The highlight of the trip was attending a VIP taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where the group was able to meet The Daily Show staff and pose for photos with Jon Stewart. When asked if Becky felt like she was able to live out her dream she enthusiastically responded “Yes!”