Two Side Stix users stand atop a mountain. Components from the specialized crutches were manufactured at Foreman Machining in Sidney. (Side Stix photo)

Vancouver Island-built crutches help disabled adventurers conquer the world

Sidney company manufactures specialized parts for an inspirational American’s crutch firm

Crutches that were partially made in Sidney have helped users reach the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and the icy tundra of Antarctica.

Side Stix was founded by American Sarah Doherty in 2003, who lost a leg in a car accident when she was a child. She is a former U.S. Alpine Skiing paralympian who got frustrated with traditional crutches, as she found them too fragile and clunky for her active lifestyle. Together with her partner, Kerrith Perreur-Lloyd, she set out to develop durable crutches for active people.

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The company’s customers have amassed a litany of achievements, from off-road triathlons in Hawaii to disabled soldiers ascending mountains in Peru and Nepal. Perhaps their most popular ambassador is Nicolai Calabria, a young man who enjoys parkour and plays in a soccer team.

Whenever a pair of crutches is shipped to a new place around the world, a little piece of Sidney goes with them, as up to 75 per cent of the specialized crutch components are manufactured on the Saanich Peninsula.

Simon Foreman, owner of Foreman Machining in Sidney, was tasked with developing and then making a better crutch.

“Originally the handles were one piece – formed (bent to that angle) and then welded on. But that is a critical flaw, and is in almost every other type of crutch design and that’s why they fail,” he said of the early challenges. “The heat affected zone from the welding changes the mechanical properties of the material and creates a stress fracture. So we decided to use technology how aircraft are built, so the pieces are technically fixed and bonded.”

Foreman and his team produce a wide variety of industrial products from their Sidney workshops, and they brought their technical know-how to this project. Apart from being able to change the crutches’ cosmetic look with wraps and colours, they also come with more practical accessories, such as snow and sand baskets, which allow users to operate on difficult terrain.

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Side Stix’s website has testimonials from customers happy with Doherty’s invention and Foreman’s work. Canadian, Capt. Kim Fawcett wrote, “Hi Sarah, Just wanted to tell you that I placed third at the World Championships last weekend. My Stix worked great and I can’t thank you enough.”

nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

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