In 2012, 24-year old outdoor enthusiast Aimee Copeland was hospitalized after a ziplining accident. Diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacterial infection, both of her hands, her right foot, and her left leg were amputated to save her life.

Confined to a wheelchair, Aimee was no longer free to explore the outdoors. “A huge part of who I was no longer seemed accessible to me,” she said. “And I wasn’t alone. People who use wheelchairs are often separated from the outdoors due to mobility and accessibility issues.”

Aimee didn’t give up. Instead, her accident inspired her to support others who were in her position. She founded the Aimee Copeland Foundation to bring the outdoors to people who have experienced disabilities. She and her team provide accessible outdoor opportunities and adaptive recreation for participants including retreats, workshops, programs, activities, and individual counseling.

In the fall of 2020, Melanie Dunn, the foundation’s Assistant Director, spearheaded an expansion of their program. The goal was to bring all-terrain wheelchairs into Georgia’s state parks. Melanie said, “I joined the organization because I’m a double amputee who was inspired by Aimee’s story. I spend a lot of time in a wheelchair. When I tried out our all-terrain wheelchairs, I felt like I was running. It can go into the woods. It can go over roots and rocks and even small downed trees. It can go up a 20-degree incline or through 2 to 3 inches of water. Using one was such a freeing experience.”

Protecting vulnerable high-value assets

The foundation had big plans – but the big plans came with a big challenge. The all-terrain chairs cost $12,000 up front. With maintenance, their total 10-year cost could reach $15,000. The foundation had 11 of them scattered throughout Georgia’s huge park system. Each had to be easily accessible so that they could be reached by the people who needed them. At $150,000, it was one of the largest investments the foundation had ever made – and it was extremely vulnerable to theft.

Melanie took charge of searching for a theft protection solution. She said, “Our three requirements were: GPS, geofencing, and real-time tracking. I talked to providers who said they updated in five minutes or two minutes, but I wanted something faster. That’s when I found FleetUp.”

FleetUp’s ten-second updates gave the foundation the real-time tracking they needed. And its trackers had other benefits, too. They were easy to hide beneath the chairs, where they were difficult to discover and access. Trackers that thieves could locate would be useless – criminals would just tear them off. But FleetUp’s were almost undetectable.

“It’s important to have a small enough device so that, one, it won’t fall off, and two, it won’t be taken off. Thieves won’t even realize the chair has a tracking device.”Melanie Dunn
Assistant Director, Aimee Copeland Foundation

The surprising benefits of choosing FleetUp

Once the Aimee Copleand Foundation started using their new FleetUp solution, they realized it provided much more than the basic GPS, geofencing, and real-time tracking features they had originally wanted. And these extra features weren’t just minor improvements – they made their assets much safer and more productive.

The first thing they noticed were the alerts. FleetUp provided real-time notifications every time a wheelchair left its geofence. They could choose to receive alerts via SMS or email – and they could have the alerts sent to other approved parties, if necessary. “The moment someone tries to steal a wheelchair, I know it.” Melanie said, “I can immediately contact the county police and the Georgia State Troopers to help us retrieve it.”

They also enjoyed using the new advanced map. “I can see where everything is all at once. Then, I zoom in to see more specific details, like how many hours one unit has been operational.” Other features helped them deploy wheelchairs more efficiently. “I was surprised at the level of detail FleetUp’s cloud dashboard provides. We can run reports on how often our assets are used. If chairs at one site are under-used, we’ll move them to another. These features are going to be a great advantage for us as we expand.”

“Our wheelchairs are in rural parks with thousands of acres. If someone needs medical assistance, it’s not easy to find them in there. The advanced map and its real-time GPS data will give us the extra edge that could mean saving someone’s life.”Melanie Dunn
Assistant Director, Aimee Copeland Foundation

Guarding the assets that create memories

After Melanie contacted FleetUp to ask about tracking devices, the Aimee Copeland Foundation’s mission inspired the FleetUp team to offer 100 tracking devices for free. From day one, FleetUp has been dedicated to protecting organizations’ most valuable assets – and none are more valuable than the ones that help people build joyful lives.

“We have a young man whose wife and young son had been hiking at a Georgia park for a long time,” said Melanie. “He has spina bifida, so he couldn’t join them. When he found out about our program, he was thrilled.”

“The first time I talked to him, I could hear tears in his voice. He wanted to go out and join his family, to enjoy nature, to feel the sun on his face, to be in the woods. But he also wanted more than that. It wasn’t only about being outside. It wasn’t even just about spending time with his wife and son. It was about making memories. With these wheelchairs, he was able to have adventures with his son. He was able to create connections that his boy will remember long after he’s grown up. Years from now, when that little boy becomes a father himself, he’ll still remember the time he spent with his dad at the park.”

“These wheelchairs help so many people create amazing experiences. Having the opportunity to build this program was a blessing. And we’re blessed that FleetUp is a part of it.”Melanie Dunn
Assistant Director, Aimee Copeland Foundation

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