Fundraiser to raise money for track chair

September 30, 2018

November 2, 2002, is a day that changed Heath Zinnel’s life forever. A vehicle accident involving a drunk driver left him with numerous internal injuries.

“He was in a coma for three months,” said his mother, Deb Zinnel. “So we didn’t know if he would make it.”

Heath Zinnel survived the ordeal, but the accident left him permanently confined to a wheelchair. Despite no longer being able to walk or use his left arm and hand, he tries to live life to its fullest. He said he enjoys fishing and the outdoors, but his wheelchair has made these leisure pursuits difficult for him.

With old age, it’s harder each day for his father, Gary Zinnel, to push his wheelchair outside, especially when it gets stuck in the sand and mud.

“It’s just getting really hard for me to push him these places,” Gary Zinnel said. “He was going to have to give up all the things that we do, not because of himself, but because of my health.”

In order to allow Heath Zinnel to continue to visit the outdoors, his family has decided to host a fundraising lunch and auction to raise the money needed for a Rocket Mobility Tomahawk, a track chair that can traverse the outdoors. The Chili and Soup Fundraiser will be from noon to 2 p.m. on Oct. 14. at 1C Church, 2200 28th Ave.

“It would be awesome. I could actually do the things that most people walking can do, go anywhere,” Heath Zinnel said about getting a track chair. “It’s huge for me, knowing that I’m not killing them (my parents) because they have to push me out there.”

Gary Zinnel said he was a bit reluctant to do a fundraiser at first, listing off other causes, like cancer, which he said he felt were more deserving of funds.

“That was the hardest part of even doing this was, personally, I feel like there are a lot more things that are more important than this, but,” his father Gary Zinnel said. “We never had a fundraiser for Heath when he had his accident, we never had anything for him before, so I guess it’s OK.”

Five months ago the Zinnel family launched a fundraising campaign on the website GoFundMe and raised over $1,000 for the chair. But with the chair costing $10,000, the Zinnel family hopes to raise the rest of the money from the church fundraiser.

The Tomahawk track chair is manufactured by Rocket Mobility, a company located in Columbus.

“It’s basically an assisted mobility vehicle to just give people a sense of freedom, let them go where a standard wheelchair would not allow them to go,” Andy Havlovic, owner of Rocket Mobility, said about the Tomahawk.

Havlovic acquired the Lincoln-based company back in January 2017 and has since moved it to Columbus. It is a sister company of 3D Design Inc., a metal manufacturer in Columbus owned by his father, Dan Havlovic.

Havlovic said the track chair is a fairly new product and the company will begin mass marketing it in the near future. As the chair is considered a recreational vehicle, Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance won’t cover the costs for a person to purchase one. But for those who can get their hands on the American made machine, Havlovic said it’s life-changing.

“What’s neat for us is not only do you have a product, you get to see the product actually change somebody’s else’s life and let them do things that really enhance their life at the end of the day,” Havlovic said.

Heath Zinnel owns an electrically powered chair, but it has trouble going outside in the winter and can’t be used in the outdoors. A track chair would allow him to go to the beach, hunt and fish without having to worry about getting stuck or left behind.

The Chili and Soup Fundraiser will charge adults $10 and kids $5 for the lunch. Den Zinnel said they plan for 200 people to attend. The event will feature a raffle for a shotgun donated by Tweet’s Sport Shop and an auction.

Auction items include a 7 mm Remington magnum rifle donated by Gunslingers, a painting made by Columbus based artist Dan Smith, and various other donated items like jewelry, gift cards, tools sets, etc.

Gary Zinnel said any extra funds raised beyond what is need to buy the track chair would be donated to other charities. Deb Zinnel said the chair would give her son more freedom in mobility.

“It would just give you (Heath Zinnel) your independence to be just like the other guys,” she said.

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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