Antonio Ramunno was trying to find a way to exercise and improve his independence and health after his SCI. His innovation, Wallgym, might be a game changer for any wheelchair user seeking a home-based way of getting in better shape.
Antonio Ramunno has always been a hands-on guy. Up until four years ago, the 50-year-old father ran his own roofing and siding company in his hometown of Kamloops. He was used to solving his own problems with ingenuity and hard work long before a 2014 motorcycle accident left him with C5 quadriplegia. It was only natural he solved his post-injury dilemmas in the same way.
Ramunno spent one year in hospital and rehab. He was convinced the key to maximizing his abilities and independence lay in exercise. He made the most of his time with GF Strong’s physiotherapy staff, working with therabands and other accessible equipment.
Back in Kamloops, he quickly discovered that continuing his exercise regimen wasn’t going to be easy. His funding coverage for physiotherapy ran out, and when he started to investigate accessible, assistive workout options around Kamloops, he struck out.
He considered the idea of working out at home. But again, he hit a dead end.
“I needed gym equipment to get better but just couldn’t afford it,” says Ramunno. “Even if I could afford it, all I could find were huge machines I just didn’t have space for.”
That’s when he hatched the idea for a wall-mounted gym station that would take up little room and be entirely usable without him needing to transfer out of his wheelchair. He began to envision a way of hooking the bands to the wall so he could use them independently.
His first attempt was hooks mounted to a board that was screwed to the wall.
“It was very simple,” he says. “But then I started to add things to make it more complex. Over the period of one year, I slowly expanded and built my first prototype. That gym is in my bedroom, and I still use it all the time.”
“I can literally exercise every muscle group in my body on Wallgym. It’s given me more mobility and strength in my arms, and improved my ability to walk with a walker. It has totally improved my confidence. But it’s not just for me—I designed it so it could be used by people with a wide range of disabilities,” says Ramunno.
People around Ramunno—his family and friends—began to take notice.
“Everyone kept telling me I was on to something,” he says. “So I got back to work and built two more refined versions— one was ordered by a local gym, and another one I donated to our local YMCA, which provided so much support for me when I was struggling to keep exercising.”
By this point, Ramunno’s brainchild had morphed into a polished exercise kit—a one by two meter panel that mounts to the studs of a wall. The system, since dubbed Wallgym by Ramunno, is thoughtfully laid out with eye bolts to anchor various tensions of therabands. In turn, the therabands attach to a variety of handle grips and bars. The system also includes hand weights, a hand strengthener, an accessory panel, Bluetooth speakers, leg bands and ankle straps.
Positive feedback continued to roll in, and it dawned on Ramunno: he might have a commercially viable product.
He applied to Community Futures Thompson Country for assistance in developing a business plan. He was quickly approved by the organization, which is funded by the federal and provincial governments to support entrepreneurs, business owners and job seekers.
With a completed business plan, he moved the production of Wallgym out of his mother’s home, leasing a commercial space in Kamloops.
Today he’s hard at work ramping up production and preparing to officially launch sales. Wallgym continues to receive plenty of media interest, and Ramunno is already fielding queries from Peers, including Paralympic athletes. He’s recently launched a company website (www.wallgym.ca).
He hopes to offer Wallgyms for about $1,200, with an option to discount to under $1,000 for any Peer with financial hardship.
For the moment, he’s juggling all aspects of the business himself, including building the actual product, which he says will continue to evolve.
“It’s just the beginning; I have many more ideas.”
“It will always be changing and advancing. I know at some point I will have to hire more workers and move into a bigger facility when demands increase.”
Commercial success is the priority, but it’s far from the only end game— simply refining the concept and being back at work full-time has been remarkable therapy for Ramunno, who admits he struggled at times after his accident. He’s grateful to those who helped him along the road.
“I would like to thank my family for supporting me, and in particular, I’d like to thank my mom for letting me turn her living room into a construction site—I literally turned it into a wood working shop! I would also like to thank GF Strong staff for their care and dedication, and the tools they sent me home with to further my recovery. And I would also like to thank WorkBC and Community Futures for all the help they gave me.”
Visit www.wallgym.ca to learn more!
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