New program raises disability awareness in Starkville

MSU student Thomas Guest poses with participants of the Come Roll with Me program held at the Sigma Chi house on February 2.

Come Roll with Me-Mississippi is working to break down barriers between those with disabilities and those without disabilities.    

Come Roll with Me (CRWM) is a program designed to bring awareness about the challenges people who use wheelchairs face in day-to-day life. At CRWM events, non-disabled participants use a wheelchair and perform routine tasks to experience the difficulties wheelchair users encounter daily. Participants then are asked to reflect upon what they learned while using a wheelchair that day and how it affected their mindsets. 

Reid Fracchia, a 2020 graduate of the University of Mississippi and a Jackson, Mississippi, native, started the Come Roll with Me-Mississippi (CRWM-MS) chapter in November 2018 after being inspired by one of his mother's colleagues, physical therapist Cathy Henderson Carver. Carver started Come Roll with Me in Alabama with a focus on elementary-aged children. 

After gaining Carver's blessing to start the Mississippi chapter, Fracchia held events at the University of Mississippi and in Jackson, Mississippi, with hopes of connecting people who use a wheelchair and non-disabled young adults. 

"I definitely felt it was important to start building that bridge in people our age just because we're young, and it's just a good time to learn about the values of others and kind of put yourself in their shoes for just a few hours. I think at a young age, you're kind of more open to seeing things from a different light, a different perspective," Fracchia said.

When Reid Fracchia graduated from Ole Miss in May 2020, his younger brother Owen took the reins of running CRWM-MS. Owen Fracchia, a sophomore exercise science major at Ole Miss, had the burden of COVID-19 to bear when he took over but has been able to host a couple of events since the pandemic started. 

Owen Fracchia said his hopes for the program are that participants gain a better understanding of what life is like for wheelchair users and see the everyday challenges they face.

After seeing CRWM's impact in Jackson and Oxford, Bryson Weeks, a sophomore biological sciences major at Mississippi State University, reached out to Owen Fracchia about hosting an event at MSU. Weeks had seen Fracchias' work with CRWM over the years and thought it was important to spread the message to MSU.

On Feb. 2, Come Roll with Me had a small event at the Sigma Chi house at MSU with Thomas Guest, a senior business administration major, as the speaker. Thomas was involved in an ATV accident that paralyzed him from the neck down his freshman year at MSU. He shared his story with the participants and demonstrated how he goes through life in his wheelchair. 

Wheeling around the Sigma Chi house, participants realized how different it is for people who use wheelchairs to perform daily tasks. Guest explained those without disabilities usually do not understand how something small, like loose gravel or a curb, can deter wheelchair users from smoothly moving from place to place. 

Guest said he has enjoyed working with the Come Roll with Me program, and he said he realized many people who have no connection to someone in a wheelchair still care about reaching out and learning more. 

"It made me learn that people really do care; they really do want to make a difference. They want to help. They want to learn," Guest emphasized. 

Owen Fracchia said he was glad that CRWM-MS could expand to MSU because of the increased awareness it brings. 

"I think it's a good opportunity to grow the organization as well as get knowledge out to more people about how they can approach people in chairs and become more aware of the things people in wheelchairs have to go through every day," Fracchia said. 

Reid and Owen's mother, Allison Fracchia, is the Mississippi manager at Permobil Power, a seating and mobility manufacturer that provides the wheelchairs for Come Roll with Me. She said she hopes CRWM emphasizes how people who use wheelchairs and those who do not have more in common than one would think. 

"There are more similarities between people in wheelchairs and not in wheelchairs, and so hopefully, it helps people to become more comfortable talking to people in a chair," Allison Fracchia said. 

Allison Fracchia continued, saying she hopes to get rid of any discomfort between those that are disabled and those who are not.

"Oftentimes, I think that people turn away, or they act like they don't see the person in the chair because they feel uncomfortable. They don't know how to react or what to say. That's what we hope, that this makes them see others as just like everybody else," Allison Fracchia said. "They're just normal people; it's just that they use a wheelchair to get around instead of feet."

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