Missouri Bankers Give Vets the Gift of Mobility

By Max Cook

“Segs4Vets gave me my life back.”

This statement from Army veteran Chris Stout echoes similar sentiments of U.S. veterans who have benefited from Segs4Vets, a nonprofit organization that gives Segway mobile transporters to severely injured veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Launched in 2005, the organization’s mission is to help veterans choose the path of independence and help their families as they continue to serve our nation—a cause the Missouri Bankers Association is proud to support.

Stout, a Missouri resident, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2004 with the 319 Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, where his company was responsible for building roads in the country. During a routine convoy on May 5, 2005, his unit came under attack. A bullet hit Stout’s ankle, and while he attempted to take cover behind his truck a blast rocked it toward him, crushing his right leg.

After the attack, Stout was transferred to Germany for treatment. During his eight-month recovery, Stout had to learn how to walk again using a cane and crutches. When he wasn’t walking, he was in a wheelchair.

That is, until 2009, when Stout was presented with a Segway by Segs4Vets during a standing ovation from the crowd before a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. “It was an amazing feeling,” Stout said. “You don’t realize how much people care until you see something like that.”

In November, MBA celebrates its annual “Segs4Vets Day” with banks statewide to help raise money for the organization, which MBA adopted as its designated charity in 2009. For many Missouri banks, Segs4Vets is a community event that brings together businesses and residents to support U.S. veterans. Through donations from casual dress days at their banks to bake sales to community luncheons, Missouri bankers and their communities are helping to make a difference in veterans’ lives.

Each year, I am truly amazed by the generosity of our banks and their communities to support our veterans through Segs4Vets. It is heartwarming to know that their donations will provide Segways for veterans like Chris Stout. In fact, Stout is among the more than 1,600 military men and women who have been awarded a Segway or Ally chair—an adapted seated Segway—from Segs4Vets. At least part of the funds for each of these Segways was raised by Missouri banks and the Missouri Bankers Association.

Support among banks for Segs4Vets continues to grow each year. In both 2015 and 2016, banks surpassed MBA’s Segs4Vets fundraising goal. In December 2016, MBA presented $71,625 to the charity—the largest annual contribution MBA and its members have made thus far. Since 2009, banks in Missouri, their employees and community members have donated more than $389,200 to support Segs4Vets.

The cost to provide a Segway averaged $9,750 in 2016. The cost for an Ally chair is $15,000. For every $1 donated, 98 cents supports Segs4Vets’ mission—empowering injured men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to live independently.

“When men and women serving our nation suffer serious injury and permanent disability, they must have resources and tools that help them live independently and contribute to society,” said Jerry Kerr, president and co-founder of Segs4Vets.

“The Segway does not draw attention to one’s physical disability,” Kerr added. “It is a tool that is solving many of the mobility issues facing our disabled veterans in a manner that is psychologically uplifting and physically beneficial. Segs4Vets empowers these men and women, giving them a new outlook on life,” Kerr said.

For MBA and its members, it is an honor to recognize the sacrifices that our veterans make to keep our nation safe. Participating in Segs4Vets allows us the opportunity to thank our soldiers for their bravery.

Max Cook is president and CEO of the Missouri Bankers Association.