Access to mobility, to community, and to a healthy, full life is what motivates our work. However, for many people living with a disability or chronic illness, finances can be as much of a barrier to community as their illness or injury itself. Having to pay for additional expenses like mobility aids, home care, and medication, while on the limited and fixed income of disability assistance, forces many people into medical poverty.
We want everyone who could benefit from an Alinker to have access to one, which is why we’ve worked hard to build this community of generosity and mutual support, and created a system that can offer anyone, regardless of income or insurance, the opportunity to get an Alinker through a crowdfunding campaign.
Signing up for a crowdfunding campaign can be intimidating. There is a lot of vulnerability that accompanies putting yourself out there in such a public forum, and maybe you don’t think you have a large enough community for your campaign to be successful. Our Campaigns Manager, Stephanie Sleight, understands these feelings all too well, as she was introduced to us when she signed up to be our 100th campaigner back in 2020.
“I had been looking at the Alinker for a couple of years, probably since it initially came out. I had been wanting to get one, but it was one of those things, I just couldn’t really afford it,” Stephanie said. “At that point they didn’t have the campaigns, or any of the rent-to-own or any of that kind of stuff going on, so I just kind of put it on the back burner.”
But in 2020, significant changes in her life led her back to the Alinker. “Basically what happened is my life kind of self-destructed, and I suddenly found myself all by myself and needing to find a way to be able to move around,” she explained. She had recently moved from Florida to a small town in Arizona with her partner, who had been her primary caregiver to help with her mobility challenges for a number of years. But not long after settling in Arizona, her partner experienced some serious personal issues, and left. “So I was in a brand-new town, didn’t know anybody, didn’t have any friends, didn’t have any family, nothing,” said Sleight. “So I was like, shit, I need to find a way to get mobile, because I’m screwed.”
“I was at a horrible low point in my life, feeling really isolated and really depressed,” she said. “I wasn’t sure about campaigning but I thought, what the hell, probably no one will donate. At that point, the few friends I had were all economically challenged, I know they couldn’t really afford to donate to me, and the only living family I have left is my brother. But when I reached out to Alinker they were very encouraging to me and told me to give it a try.”
Stephanie’s campaign was ultimately successful, and through her regular communication with BE, led to her joining our team, first to host Instagram Live sessions on Indigenous issues throughout the pandemic, and later as our campaigns manager.
Her experience with her own campaign informs the approach she takes to her work. One of the biggest hurdles new campaigners face is the fear that nobody will donate to them, because they don’t have a big enough community, or don’t feel comfortable asking their friends. It’s a sentiment Stephanie understands well.
“People get tired of you saying, ‘no I can’t do that I’m not physically up to that’ or whatever. And a lot of people don’t know how to deal with you once you become disabled, and you know, get uncomfortable,” Stephanie explains. “And so a lot of friendships go by the wayside, and the few that you have, we’re so often forced to rely on our friends for help in other areas, that it feels hard to ask them to donate as well…So you feel like, they’re all going to be tired of being asked to help.”
But upon launching her own campaign, Stephanie discovered that not only did her own family and friends want to offer support, but a wide community of strangers did as well. “People want to help,” she said. “More than you realize that they do, and this gives them an opportunity to do it, so it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Over the last several years, Stephanie has become an integral part of the Alinker family, and she’s able to build on her own experience to encourage others who may still be hesitant about whether Alinker is right for them.
“That’s one of the things that I love about working with the campaigns,” she said. “To be able to work with campaigners who are in that same space I was in, two and half years ago, and to say, I know this can get better for you. I know that this device can help your life, I know that this community can help you feel less isolated, to help guide them through that process and help them get there is just so rewarding to me.”
Please check out our campaigns page to learn more about our crowdfunding program and how it enables access to mobility, community, and a healthy, full life, for anyone who needs it.
If you're in a position to donate, we encourage and appreciate any donations to our collective campaign, which enables us to complete the campaigns of new applicants who may not have enough community to get there on their own.