Frank Seiler has been a part of the Al Sigl Community for over 66 years, first as a program participant and then as a volunteer. His years of service speak to the heart of our collaborative mission. We are grateful for volunteers like Frank who choose to share our journey.
Here’s more on Frank’s incredible story… as a child, he received his first wheelchair from our collaborative’s namesake, newsman and radio broadcaster Al Sigl. It was wicker and looked a little like a whiskey barrel cut in half. Frank was so young that the chair was too heavy to wheel on his own, so his brothers would help him get where he needed to go. In 1953, when he started physical therapy, he was given a piece of plywood with straps to go across his knees to practice sitting up.
Today, Frank is amazed by how much has changed for people with special needs.
After he retired from a career in printing in the 1990s, he began volunteering at CP Rochester. He helped with children’s swim classes in the warm water therapy pool and joined the agency’s Consumer Services Advocacy Committee. About ten years ago, Frank overheard agency staff discussing gait-trainers, a physical therapy tool that helps people who use wheelchairs strengthen their leg muscles, improve mobility, and foster independence. Costing several thousand dollars each, they talked about these benefits, but also how purchasing one would require special funding.
Frank set to work. Thanks to his initiative and generous friends in the community who joined in, the agency was able to get not one, but three of these specialized tools to help the children and adults they serve achieve their goals.
Frank has been an equally-dedicated volunteer for Al Sigl Community. A passionate member of the Sports Committee, each year he helps with planning Al Sigl’s Golf Tournament and other events. Proceeds are given as grants to Al Sigl’s six Member Agencies for wide-ranging program supports like camp scholarships, early intervention speech therapy tools, adaptive recreation equipment, mental health services, dentist visits, transportation assistance, and more.
Leaving a Sports Committee meeting, Frank always nods a quiet thank you when passing by the statue of newsman Al Sigl at his microphone. He still believes in Al‘s vision of how we can each be a part of creating a stronger, more inclusive community.
“During his radio newscasts or just heading down the street, Al was always looking for things that people needed, whether it was a wheelchair, a meal, or just a friendly hello,” Frank says. “It’s that commitment to others that I hope to honor as a volunteer. The belief that we really do achieve more when we work together as a community.”
“Those are the values that I have tried to pass on to my children and grandchildren,” Frank says. “I couldn’t be prouder that my daughter, Terry, also volunteers for Al Sigl, helping to raise critically-needed funds and help raise awareness about Al Sigl’s shared mission.”
Terry has been an Al Sigl volunteer since 2017. Last year, she joined Frank at the 50th Annual Sports Classic Golf Tournament. This year, she helped organize Al Sigl’s first-ever virtual tasting event. “There are so many reasons why I support Al Sigl Community,” she says. “One of the reasons I love and admire my dad so much is his perseverance, which I attribute in part to the services he received so many years ago. My dad’s condition never stopped him.” When asked about her own volunteer service, Terry notes, “I am grateful my dad and I are able to share this journey together.”
Always willing to take on new opportunities, Frank’s most recent volunteer role has been meeting with students taking part in Al Sigl’s Effective Access Technology partnership with Rochester Institute of Technology. In seven years, the collaboration has sparked over 90 projects, including sensory toys, mobility aids, and interactive apps that help foster independent living. Frank meets with students to share some of the challenges of using a power wheelchair in non-accessible environments or to talk about adaptive tools. Students use the feedback to refine and test designs on campus at RIT or in the LiveAbility Lab at Al Sigl’s Wolk Campus.
“Al Sigl, the man, would be proud of how these students are working to create change for people with disabilities,” Frank says. “The innovation, ideas developed right here in our community—to think of where we started, it is truly amazing. But there is still much more that needs to be done.”
Frank’s words, his story, highlight his belief that we all can give back, we all can make a difference. That we all should have access to the things we need and want, to be included, and to share our unique voice with others.
This year, our Member Agencies and the 55,000 people they serve have faced incredible challenges. With so much uncertainty, more and more people are turning to Al Sigl Member Agencies for help and support. The year has also brought remarkable moments of hope, as our agencies have found creative ways to continue to provide services through even greater innovation and collaboration.
Your gift today will help thousands of children and adults of all abilities lead more independent lives.