[Guest post – thanks to Sara Furlong]
I hesitate to call my daughter’s condition a disability. Yes, she has a rare benign tumor that has partially paralyzed her left foot and requires her to wear a clunky brace, but her inability to do certain things isn’t because of her physical condition, and it certainly isn’t due to a lack of will — it is usually caused by a lack of appropriate equipment.
Amelia is 10 years old and accustomed to missing fun activities because of her footwear. Her brace makes it difficult to find shoes for even a normal day. She wears high-tops while others wear dress shoes for orchestra concerts and holiday gatherings. And I’ve spent the last half-decade steering her away from ballet and tap class, rollerblading, ice skating, and skiing, knowing it would be impossible to find footwear that would work.
For the past three years, we have been traveling back and forth from our upstate New York home to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for her care. In September 2019, Amelia had a tendon transfer surgery that we hoped would help stabilize her foot a bit more. On our last visit, in August 2020, her surgeon was pleased with her progress and told her she could try skiing this year without her brace, since the boot itself would be supportive enough.
We were very excited at the idea of starting this new activity as a family to get us through the long upstate winters and help strengthen Amelia’s weakened leg. But my excitement deflated when I took her to a ski shop. There, we discovered her feet were three full sizes apart. She was also unable to get her foot into the tight-fitting ski boots since she can’t lift her toes. Instead, her left foot was jammed into the boot, curled up like a fist.
We left feeling discouraged and I felt guilty for inciting premature excitement in the kids about skiing. So I did what any mom would do — I started Googling. And that is when I discovered Roces.
The idea of trying Roces adjustable ski boots for Amelia was appealing because I thought we could adjust each foot to its own size. However, I found that her feet fell into two different size ranges and that the boots in those ranges looked very different.
I wrote to the company to ask if they had any boot models in which the larger size range matched the smaller size range. Then I prepared myself for a wait, which is usually the case when one fills out an online form on a company website.
I was surprised to hear back from Dave Smallwood right away. He wrote that using two different size ranges was not advised, since the boots would be so different, but that he was excited to help get our daughter skiing. He asked me to provide some additional information, to take photos of her feet, and to measure her feet in a certain way. I did this, and was told Dave would be sending the information on to the Roces research and development team in Italy.
The next day, I received another message from Dave saying the team had reviewed the measurements and photos and recommended a certain boot and size range. He told me to have Amelia choose some boots and that they would send them to us to try but only charge us a discounted price if we wanted to keep them.
We were so grateful and excited! The boots arrived in just a couple of days. I think Amelia had prepared herself (as had I) for the boots to not work out. We are not accustomed to these types of things going smoothly. When she tried them on, she had a look of genuine surprise that they felt so secure and supportive. Our whole family of four were astonished when she announced, “THEY FIT!”
The Roces design was absolutely perfect for our daughter. We can set the boot to the largest size for her disabled foot, and then adjust it down to size while it is on, allowing her foot to get properly situated before it is tightened. The boots also have a soft removable insert that opens wide and forms to the foot.
I was happy to report back to Dave that the boots worked. Then, as I expressed how meaningful Roces’ help had been, since Amelia often has to sit out of winter activities, Dave enthusiastically sent info on adjustable Roces skates! He said he would send some to us to try. They also worked well!
As the weather here in upstate New York becomes colder, our family is excited for the winter activities ahead. We have Roces to thank for that.
The world has a long way to go in making adaptive apparel available so disabled children can access the same activities that other kids enjoy. In the meantime, parents like me rely on the help of company representatives to gain knowledge on products that might help.
I have never experienced a team go so far above and beyond the way that the people at Roces did. When they did not know the answer to our question, they did everything they could to find the answer, and delivered a great solution and terrific product that surpassed even our hopes. Their kindness meant the world to our family, and will make a big difference in our daughter’s life this winter.
We can’t thank Roces enough!