Where Is He Now? An Interview with Brian Keefer of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

“You gotta work on that grip, Brian,” Allen Ray, SimplyHome’s CEO, said on his recent visit to the home of Brian Keefer. This may seem like an odd thing to say to someone who has quadriplegia, but you don’t know Brian Keefer. The 29-year-old Pennsylvanian and star of an episode of TLC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition just laughed in response to Allen’s remark. You might not know that Brian is well-known for his deeply positive outlook and indefatigable dedication to recovering as much mobility as possible after a 2008 gymnastics accident left him paralyzed. A recent highlight of Brian’s recovery was regaining the ability to lift his left hand and to open a door for himself: “It was one of the best things I’ve done in my entire life. A huge stepping stone!”

 

Allen Ray visits with the Keefer Family

While encouraged by his progress, Brian has no intention of stopping there: he wants to walk, drive, and work with others who face quadriplegia. Mindful of this, Allen used his recent trip to Pennsylvania to encourage Brian to continue the intensity of his hard work towards recovery. Allen says, “Brian is focused and determined and will not stop there. We know this development is just one step in his longer journey to recovery.”

 

You may remember that the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition episodes featured renovations of the Keefer family home and technology SimplyHome designed for Brian to give him greater independence. The technology included a tablet that powered environmental controls (home automation), a voice-activated adjustable bed and drink machine, intercoms for communicating throughout the home, adaptive controls for playing video games with his family, and voice-controlled text, before voice-texting was a common feature on cell phones.

 

SimplyHome asked Brian a few questions about his life after Extreme Makeover, how technology impacts his life today, and where his goals will lead him next!

 

SH: What’s your life like after the show? Do you get recognized a lot?

Brian: It’s really good. I am really thankful; the show gave me a lot more independence. I can talk to my house, turn on the lights and the music and everything. I definitely get recognized a lot. I travel around South Central Pennsylvania giving speeches, and people recognize me through that, too.

I have had a lot of opportunities. I have gotten to scuba dive in California with my doctors. I have been helping to coach volleyball at my high school. In 2013 I went to Oklahoma for a couple of months and helped coach the men’s and women’s Paralympics volleyball teams.  I’m not just staying in my house – I go out and do things, make choices, to have a full life in society.

 

SH: Tell us about your work as a motivational speaker.

Brian: People have wanted to hear my story ever since I got hurt. I have had people tell me that I have changed their lives completely, helped them through dark times. Every time I do my speech, it’s relatively similar, telling my story. In the Q&A time after my speech, one of the first questions people always ask is, “How are you able to stay so positive?”

 

SH: How do you answer that? You must have some hard days.

Brian: I have always been a really positive person, I am always having fun and smiling. Because I am such a positive person, I am able to turn a really difficult situation into something better. I also have an enormous support system. I am lucky to have what I have, people praying for me and everything.

Everyone has days where they are dark days or down days, but I’ve always been a firm believer that you make the choice whether to be happy or to be sad. Obviously there are things that will affect that, but you can still choose to pick yourself up and do something. And I have so many people supporting me. If I need to, there is someone I can go to – we can go out, get some food, go see a movie.

 

SH: What technology does your daily life involve these days? Are you continuing to use the technology from the show, like the voice-activated texting, bed lift, and drink machine?

Brian: I use a mouth stick to text people now, rather than voice-to-text. That way I can text people even when I am in the middle of something, like watching a movie. I have gotten really fast at it now. I use the environmental controls through my voice on my tablet all day, every day. I don’t need the voice-activated adjustable bed as much, because I just keep it elevated. I read a lot of books on my tablet. I’ll read pretty much anything but my favorites are usually sci-fi and fantasy. Two of my favorite series are Harry Potter and Eragon.

Extreme Home Makeover Edition, Brian Keefer and Family

SH: What do you think about the Amazon Alexa, the new technology Allen brought on his visit?

Brian: Alexa is great, she has great potential. It would be huge to connect it to Environmental Controls. Another thing she could help with is to talk on the phone or use social media.

 

SH: We were excited to hear about you regaining the ability to lift your left arm. Tell us about that process.

Brian: I do physical therapy every day, seven days a week. An aide comes in three times a week to help my dad do the exercises that take two people and are more intensive for my core. After the aide leaves, my dad and I can do more machines that don’t require an outside person. A lot of the exercises work on balance.

The change to be able to lift my arm was gradual. I got a flicker in my left bicep when I was first in the hospital, 8 years ago. About a year and a half ago, I was able to start lifting my arm off the armrest. Still working on the hand and fingers. I opened a door at Kennedy Krieger for the first time by myself last year. It was a huge stepping stone!

 

SH: Tell us about your work on the board of United Central Palsy – Central Pennsylvania.

Brian: I gave a speech for UCP of Central PA a couple of years back and had gotten to know them through that. The president, Jeff Cooper, came out to the house, and I got to know him fairly well. Jeff reached out to me to see if it was something I was interested in doing. I decided to do that to help people across Central PA who have some sort of disability. We have meetings every other week. I give my two cents and help out where I can. I help to make decisions on new programs and how the programs are going, and how to optimize their capabilities for people with disabilities.

 

SH: Your motivational speaking career is growing a lot. Who is your audience right now? How do you see that continuing to grow in the future?

Brian: I will talk to anybody that wants to listen – businesses, schools, churches, Parkinson’s groups, the nursing school in Lancaster. I’d like to expand my speaking audience to other places, beyond South Central Pennsylvania.

I would love to be able to do something like webinars to share my story – it would be a lot easier than driving all over. To be able to share my story and be able to reach out to people who are going through dark times — that’s what I want to do.

 

SH: Looking to the future, what are some things that you would like to accomplish?

Brian: Number one, I want to get out of my chair and walk. I am working toward that every day.

I want to learn to use more technology to become more independent. I would LOVE to drive. For the past three years I have been helping to coach my high school volleyball team. It would be awesome to be able to drive to that.

Potentially I would like to work with more spinal cord injury patients, when I make more of a recovery myself. Who better to work with them than me? I know what they are going through. [Brian’s college degree is in recreational management with a focus on therapy.]

Photo: www.briankeefer.org

SH: As you continue your recovery, what inspires you?

Brian: Probably what inspires me the most is the response I get from other people, telling me that I have helped them. I’ve always wanted to help people, and being told that I inspired them is really big. My family and friends inspire me because they are so supportive and with me on every step of this journey, pushing with me. And I have heard from people all over the world – the show aired in 139 different countries and people will reach out to say that I touched their lives and have been an inspiration to them.

 

Brian Keefer can be contacted regarding his motivational speaking through his website, www.briankeefer.org.

Watch the original episodes from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Season 9: Episode 6 and Episode 7.

 

Stronger every day: Brian Keefer of ‘Extreme Makeover’ is gaining mobility after a paralyzing accident

It’s been more than four years since Brian Keefer attempted a triple flip into a foam-filled pit at a Fairview Township gym and plunged head-first into the hard foundation underneath.

In that instant, he became a quadriplegic.

He thinks back to that day constantly, and to the life he led before. A life of athletics, constant motion, carefree days at the beach and few worries.

Brian Keefer working out in hydroworx pool

Enlarge John C. Whitehead | Special to PennLive Brian Keefer of Newberry Twp. works out in his Hydroworx pool Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Brian is trying to retrain his body to move again. Keefer was paralyzed after a gymnastics accident in 2008. JOHN C. WHITEHEAD/The Patriot-News Brian Keefer gains mobility after paralyzing accident gallery (10 photos)

Thinking back is not depressing, though, he said. It’s motivating.

It’s what keeps him working out daily, pushing himself to strengthen his muscles and retrain the nerves damaged in his accident.

“I want to get back to how life was before,” he said this week after emerging from the HydroWorx therapy pool where exercise specialist Kelsey Harbold had been putting him through his paces. “I try to be positive. It’s a personal choice to be in a good mood or a bad mood, and I choose to be in a good mood.”

A lot has happened to Keefer, 25, since that day in June 2008.

He went back to school, accompanied by his father, Steve, as his caregiver. He graduated from Lock Haven University in May with a degree in recreation management, an A- grade point average and a standing ovation when he went up on stage.

And most notably, he starred on national TV on the reality show “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.” That was after 4,000 volunteers rebuilt his family home in Newberry Twp. in one week in June 2011 to help him become as independent as possible.

The house has high-tech innovations such as a voice-activated iPad that lets him turn on the television, dim the lights and perform other tasks without the help of his family.

The highlight of the house is the therapy room. It contains an electrical stimulation bicycle, an adapted treadmill and other items that help him continue what is called “activity-based restorative therapies.”

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SimplyHome Product Designer, Michael Doornbos, Featured in Wired For His Space Exploration Project

FireFly Controller Board Simplifies Rocket Science

Categories: Electronic GeekProjects and ActivitiesScience and Education,Toys and Technology

Recently, my friend Mike Doornbos from Evadot got together with the small-satellite crew down at the non-profit Kentucky Space to try to fix an annoying problem. (Yes, people really do get together to solve annoying problems with their satellites!) They wanted a standard “mission command” board that could serve as the basis for the brains, power and voice for different space applications without having to make it from scratch every time. They liked their solution so much, they decided to share!

“We’re making the FireFly controller boards because it seems like a lot of projects repeat the same ten steps just to get started. If you’re going to launch a high altitude balloon with a camera on it (to take pictures of the curvature of the earth), build some remote sensing equipment, teach a class, or even launch a satellite you need the same basic components,” says Mike Doornbos. “This system gets you right to ‘step 10′ in your project. Steps 1 through 9 are already done! The FireFly is designed to provide everything you need to get started including:

  • A small computer with an easy to use programming interface (emphasis on easy).
  • Battery power with charging circuits.
  • Long range communications.
  • The ability to use existing add on hardware.
  • Some software you can borrow, reuse, and share.
  • A place to talk about what your building to get help.”              

  Read MoreImage

AARP Features SimplyHome-How to Help an Aging Parent

How to Help an Aging Parent

Use this guide to assess when a loved one needs a caregiver and what options are available

by: Tina Adler | from: AARP The Magazine | June 13, 2012

How to Know When It’s Time

Sometimes an elder’s need for help is sudden and obvious. More often, though, it becomes apparent gradually, experts say. So how will you know? Watch for changes in your loved one’s behavior, such as ignoring favorite hobbies, missing dates with friends, or forgetting to pay bills. Not every change means danger, but when a shift happens, it’s important to understand why, says Claudia Fine, an executive at SeniorBridge, a geriatric-care management company. So snoop, Fine advises. Tag along to your loved one’s doctors’ appointments and ask questions.

See also: Does your loved one need a caregiver? Use this checklist.

Once you understand the person’s situation, you can help develop plans, says Peter Notarstefano, director of home- and community-based services at LeadingAge, an association for aging-services organizations. Although you may not see yourself as a “caregiver,” that’s the term for anyone who looks after a person who needs assistance with daily tasks. AARP’s Caregiving Resource Center can help.

Staying at Home

Keeping a loved one in his or her house, or yours, can be challenging if your loved one needs daily help with some tasks. Thankfully, there are services to make it easier.

Adult day facilities offer meals, activities, companionship and some medical care. One popular program for frail people is the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). It’s free for those who qualify for Medicaid; others pay about $3,000 a month.

Service programs such as Senior Corps send volunteers age 55 or older to visit elderly individuals at home and provide companionship.

Occupational therapists can evaluate a home and its resident and recommend grab bars and other changes to improve safety. They also help clients develop strength and skills, such as balance, so they can manage more of their daily activities. Studies show that visits from an OT help older people stay in their homes longer.

If you and your family member want to live near each other but not in the same house, you can now rent a fully equipped, backyard mini-apartment that attaches to your home’s utilities. Some of these so-called assisted living structures come with monitoring systems.

Assistive-technology companies have products that can ensure your relative is safe. SimplyHome offers monitoring equipment such as motion sensors and GPS watches, and QuietCare (careinnovations.com) has a motion-sensor system that can learn a person’s daily patterns and send alerts when there is a significant change.

In some areas nonprofit support networks called Villages help older residents stay in their homes. Volunteers perform some everyday tasks, and the Villages also arrange for discounted services, from plumbing to nursing care. Annual membership fees are usually $300 to $500. See whether there’s a Village near you.

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Watch These Video Clips | SimplyHome’s Return to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

On January 6, 2012, SimplyHome made its second appearance on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in the Gibbs Family episode. Because Audrey Gibbs’ vision was failing and had suffered several brain aneurysms, SimplyHome was asked to create business applications and technologies that would enable her to work out of her new home.

“We are pleased to return to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” said Allen Ray, CEO of SimplyHome. “But what pleases us more is that we were able to create solutions that empowered Audrey to continue working.”

The Gibbs Family

Prior to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Audrey Gibbs and her six children lived in a rural Iowa farmhouse with no functional plumbing or indoor bathrooms. Soon after her husband’s death, Audrey’s vision began to fail and it became difficult for her to travel to town for work.

SimplyHome’s Return to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

When it became clear that “off the shelf” technologies would not provide the solutions needed for Audrey Gibbs and her family, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition contacted assistive technology leader and show veteran, SimplyHome. The Gibbs Family episode marked SimplyHome’s second appearance on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has done a great job improving accessibility in the home beyond the physical environment,” said Ian Sanders, Director of Sales at SimplyHome. “With the use of technology, we are able to expand options that really support independent living.”

The Gibbs Family / SimplyHome Connection

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition asked SimplyHome to create business applications and technologies that would enable Audrey to work out of her new home. Supports provided by SimplyHome included: custom software with features such as appointment scheduling, billing, and communication with clients; integration for all business applications with Audrey’s iPad, iPhone and laptop; and a business website. Audrey also received a scanning device that can audibly read typewritten words and handwriting from a piece of paper. In Addition, SimplyHome setup a surround sound system in Audrey’s massage room, wi-fi throughout the house, and a 42″ interactive touch screen television for her daughter.

Learn more about the technology we provided for the Gibbs family at www.simply-home.com/extreme.

SimplyHome Returns to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition with Second Appearance of the Season

PRWeb News Center

Assistive Technology Leader, SimplyHome, makes second appearance on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition this Friday, January 6, 2012 at 8pm EST, with the Gibbs Family episode.

Asheville, N.C. (PRWEB) January 04, 2012

When it became clear that “off the shelf” technologies would not provide the solutions needed for Audrey Gibbs and her family, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition contacted assistive technology leader and show veteran, SimplyHome. The Gibbs Family episode marks SimplyHome’s second appearance on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition this season and premieres Friday, January 6, 2012 at 8pm EST.

“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has done a great job improving accessibility in the home beyond the physical environment,” said Ian Sanders, Director of Sales at SimplyHome. “With the use of technology, we are able to expand options that really support independent living.”

Prior to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Audrey Gibbs and her six children lived in a rural Iowa farmhouse with no functional plumbing or indoor bathrooms. Soon after her husband’s death, Audrey’s vision began to fail and it became difficult for her to travel to town for work.

SimplyHome was asked to create business applications and technologies that would enable Audrey to work out of her new home. Supports provided by SimplyHome included: custom software with features such as appointment scheduling, billing, and communication with clients; integration for all business applications with Audrey’s iPad, iPhone and laptop; and a business website. Audrey also received a scanning device that can audibly read typewritten words and handwriting from a piece of paper.

In Addition, SimplyHome setup a surround sound system in Audrey’s massage room, wi-fi throughout the house, and a 42″ interactive touch screen television for her daughter.

“We are pleased to return to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” said Allen Ray, CEO of SimplyHome. “But what pleases us more is that we were able to create solutions that empowered Audrey to continue working.”

About SimplyHome

SimplyHome designs and installs wireless technology products and related care-focused services. The company is committed to promoting affordable and dignified options for independent living – specifically to aging and disabled populations nationwide. SimplyHome is known for its highly-customizable systems that are tailored to meet each customer’s specific needs.

SimplyHome products and services range from voice-activated environmental controls (as shown recently on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), Personal Alert Systems, GPS watches, motion sensors, and stove monitors to Virtual Care Management® – SimplyHome’s model for client care.
For more information, visit: http://www.simply-home.com .

About Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

The Emmy award-winning reality program ”Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” now in its 9th season, is produced by Endemol USA, a division of Endemol Holding. It’s executive-produced by Brady Connell and George Verschoor. David Goldberg is Chairman, Endemol North America. The show airs Sundays from 8:00-9:00 p.m., ET on ABC.

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To view full press release, please visit:

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/1/prweb9057057.htm

Eat at Local Food Trucks and Celebrate SimplyHome’s Second Appearance on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Asheville, N.C. – December 30, 2011

Asheville-based assistive technology company, SimplyHome returns to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on Friday, January 6, 2012 at 8pm EST, with the Gibbs Family episode and will mark the occasion with “A SimplyHomeTown Food Truck Fundraiser.”

In the spirit of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and in celebration of their second appearance on the show, SimplyHome, is sponsoring the event to raise funds for No Place Like Home.

Formed earlier this year, No Place Like Home is a charitable partnership between SimplyHome & Eblen Charities that promotes independent living by providing assistive technology to local senior adults and people with disabilities.

Throughout the week of the show, SimplyHome will match all donations made to No Place Like Home through participating Asheville area food trucks. “A SimplyHomeTown Food Truck Fundraiser” will run from Tuesday, January 3rd through Sunday, January 8th, during lunch and dinner hours.

To learn more about No Place Like Home or to make a donation, please visit: www.eblencharities.org.

Visit the “A SimplyHomeTown Food Truck Fundraiser” website at: noplace.simply-home.com to follow the food trucks and their locations. Check in January 3rd for the exact locations of participating food trucks.

About SimplyHome

SimplyHome designs and installs wireless technology products and related care-focused services. The company is committed to promoting affordable and dignified options for independent living – specifically to aging and disabled populations nationwide. SimplyHome is known for its highly-customizable systems that are tailored to meet each customer’s specific needs.

SimplyHome products and services range from voice-activated environmental controls (as shown recently on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), Personal Alert Systems, GPS watches, motion sensors, and stove monitors to Virtual Care Management® – SimplyHome’s model for client care.

For more information, visit: www.simply-home.com.

About Eblen Charities

Founded in 1991, Eblen Charities is a non-profit organization whose outreach extends throughout the counties of western North Carolina and through its numerous programs has helped thousands upon thousands of families each year with medical and emergency assistance.

For more information about Eblen Charities, visit: www.eblencharities.org.

###Media Only Contact:

Katherine Branch

of SimplyHome

+1-828-684-8441

Katherine.Branch@simplyhome-cmi.com

Assistive Technology Leader, SimplyHome, Establishes New Niche with Appearance on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

SimplyHome’s Products and Services, From Environmental Controls to Virtual Care Management, Provide Independence and Improved Communication to Aging and Disabled Populations.

Asheville, NC (PRWEB) December 28, 2011

Following the recent premiere of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition featuring Brian Keefer and his family,SimplyHome received an overwhelming response from paralyzed and disabled people nationwide. Though each caller’s condition varied, the message remained the same: they had never seen anything like what SimplyHome provided for Brian, or even knew it was a possibility.

SimplyHome has established a new niche in the Assistive Technology industry with an array of products and services that promote residential independence. SimplyHome’s commitment to personalized care, specifically to aging and disabled populations, led the Asheville-based company to design flexible wireless technologies. As a result individuals can make proactive choices regarding daily living activities, environmental control and personal wellness.

“All of our customers receive a personal assessment so that we can customize products that fit their specific needs,” said Jason Ray, VP of Business Development at SimplyHome. “The voice-activated cell phone, lighting, bed controls, TV, drink dispenser, and door openers – everything we provided for Brian – came directly from our assessments with him and his family.”

In addition to the environmental controls that SimplyHome can program in customers’ tablets or computers, the company offers a combination of products and services ranging from home automation and electronic aids to remote monitoring and Virtual Care Management®.

Of special interest to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition viewers was SimplyHome’s new product, the No-Buttons Headset, which offers modern Bluetooth technology while enabling the user to make calls independently. The No-Buttons headset accesses the user’s phone and its built-in voice commands without having to push any buttons; the on/off button is activated when the headset passes over a magnet. These headsets are especially helpful for people who are quadriplegic, have arthritis, ALS, cerebral palsy, or any other physical disability that makes it difficult to push a button.

“At SimplyHome, we are passionate about supporting people living independently, and we have translated that commitment to consumer care into innovative technology,“ said Allen Ray, CEO of SimplyHome.

Ray adds, “We founded this business because we care about people; technology just happened to offer us the solutions we were looking for. Our job is to listen to our customers then create systems that are individualized to their priorities and concerns. We’re about more than technology—we are committed to personalized care.”

About SimplyHome

SimplyHome designs and installs wireless technology products and related care-focused services. The company is committed to promoting affordable and dignified options for independent living – specifically to aging and disabled populations nationwide. SimplyHome is known for its highly-customizable systems that are tailored to meet each customer’s specific needs.

SimplyHome products and services range from voice-activated environmental controls (as shown recently on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), Personal Alert Systems, GPS watches, motion sensors, and stove monitors to Virtual Care Management® – SimplyHome’s model for client care.
For more information, visit: http://www.simply-home.com.

Media Only Contact:
Katherine Branch
of SimplyHome
+1-828-684-8441
Katherine.Branch(at)simplyhome-cmi(dot)com

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To view full press release, please go to:

http://www.prweb.com/releases/SimplyHomeExtremeMakeover/12/prweb9059713.htm

SimplyHome’s Second Appearance on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Scheduled to Air Friday, January 6th

Extreme Makeover Home Edition Logo

Save The Date & Set Your DVR!

We are honored to have been asked to appear again on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and to design and install custom technology for Audrey Gibbs and her family for this special show.

In conjunction with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,

  SimplyHome invites you to tune in on

Friday, January 6th

8/7C on

  for the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Friday Night Premiere

STARRING


The Gibbs Family from Iowa

   Ty, Paulie & the EMHE Gang 

and The Staff of SimplyHome

Stay tuned for more about our latest experience with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Last summer, SimplyHome worked with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to create a customized system of voice-activated environmental controls and additional supports for Brian Keefer and his family.
To learn more about SimplyHome  and Brian Keefer, please visit:

http://www.simply-home.com/extreme/

NEW Deleted Scenes: SimplyHome On Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

See deleted scenes from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition featuring SimplyHome. SimplyHome provided customized assistive technology for Brian Keefer that included supports like voice-activated environmental controls and a custom designed drink dispenser. To learn more about the technology featured on the show, go to www.Simply-Home.com/extreme.