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Raising a toast and cutting the cake with new robotic arm (10 photos)

In this Following Up feature we joined Maddy Workman at the Wooly Pub where she was celebrating the use of her new robotic arm provided through the generosity of the community and an anonymous “angel” donor

When GuelphToday first connected with Maddy Workman in July of 2019 she was in the midst of a fundraising campaign to raise $40,000 toward the purchase of a robotic arm.

Maddy was born with quadriplegia palsy that, among other things, affected her muscle development and made her unable to use her left arm.

In the spring of 2019, she was enrolled in the engineering technology program at Mohawk College and was determined to be as independent as possible before classes started in September.

She had learned about a robotic arm designed by a company called JACO and started a GoFundMe page to raise money to buy one. Her efforts caught the attention of the general manager at the Wooly Pub, Katherine White, and she offered to help with the fundraising campaign.

It was a great cause but $40,000 was a lot of money and no one, including White, expected Maddy to raise the money as fast as she did.

“We’re not even a year in from the second she decided she wanted that arm,” said White. “It’s less than a year later and she’s got it.”

White reserved a room at the Wooly Pub Sunday to celebrate with donors and supporters and give Maddy a chance to show her thanks.

“There are a lot of people that have followed Maddy throughout her journey with the GoFundMe and the fundraiser and all those sorts of things so, this is a day to celebrate Maddy in all her glory and raise a robotic arm to her,” said White.

Maddy and her new arm were happy to oblige.

“The very first thing I did was pour myself a drink,” said Maddy barely able to control the excitement and anticipation of showing her friends and family how it worked. “I also made a cup of tea on the first day I got it.”

She’s had a month to get used to the arm before she debuted it, but it was clear the novelty had not worn off.

“I got it Jan 16, a month ago today,” she said Sunday. “It’s amazing.”

She took great joy in holding her drink as she spoke to guests and shared her latest experiences.

“Last week we had subs and I held my own sub,” she said. “Usually someone needs to hold it for me. Not anymore.”

It was a simple act many of us might take for granted but it was a very powerful and emotional experience for her grandmother, Sharen Workman, when she saw Maddy’s post on Facebook.

“She posted a video of her eating the sub at Subway and I started to cry,” she said. “She couldn’t feed herself before.”

It has been exciting for Maddy’s mother Danielle Workman as well.

“We don’t live together anymore,” said Danielle. “She has gone off to college in Hamilton, so I get messages every day with a picture of her. ‘Mom I’ve made myself a tea. I made Mr. Noodles today.’ It’s awesome. It is just so great. I didn’t realize just how much this would make a difference in her and our lives.”

Danielle is grateful to everyone that has supported Maddy especially White who put her whole heart into helping the spunky teen realize her dream.

“We first met Maddy through Danielle who is a regular and we instantly fell in love with her,” said White. “We have followed her progress through the last couple years and back in April 2019 Maddy approached us about starting a fundraiser at the pub.”

White helped raise awareness of the campaign through the Neighbourhood Group of Companies and organized a fundraising event at the Wooly Pub on August 24 where a representative from JACO demonstrated how the robotic arm worked.

“We were able to raise $7,500 in about four hours, which was amazing,” said White. “She had already collected a few thousand dollars through her GoFundMe.”

The JACO technology and Maddy’s story resonated with one of the guests at the event and over the following month, he monitored the progress of the campaign.

On Oct 5 Maddy got a message on the GoFundMe page from someone wishing to make a donation. He wanted to deliver the cheque in person and Maddy gave him directions to her mother’s home where she was staying during a visit home from college.

The man showed up with a certified cheque for $23,000 covering the balance required to purchase the arm.

He didn’t identify himself and when Maddy asked how she could repay his generosity he told her he had been fortunate in life and said, “Just enjoy your life. Consider this a gift from God.”

He has chosen to remain anonymous, but many hoped he would show up for the celebration Sunday and watch Maddy cut the cake for the first time in her life by herself.

Who knows, perhaps he was there.

“I would love to know his story because what he has done is so incredible,” said Danielle. “When he said anonymous, he really meant it. We really don’t know who it is – an angel.”