Hanyzewski overcomes, helps disabled [UPDATED]Published 4:34am Monday, July 1, 2013 Updated 6:38am Monday, July 1, 2013
Many people have a hard time spelling his name. Even more people find it difficult to pronounce.
But make no mistake about it. A lot of people know the affable, outgoing and often times boisterous member of the Fergus Falls Area YMCA, Ed Hanyzewski of Pelican Rapids.
At 70 years of age, he’s not letting a problem like Muscular Dystrophy slow him down, and he certainly spends no time feeling sorry for himself, rather focusing a lot of attention on helping other handicapped folks.
It all started years ago when his late wife, Peggy, who suffered from Multiple Sclerosis, was still alive. “She was my best friend, my one and only,” Ed admits. “When she left us, it was tough.”
Being the couple suffered from both diseases, they decided to not have any children, so they became involved with groups of people with MS, mostly friends and acquaintances, becoming more and more aware of the problems they faced.
“I called that my becoming aware stage,” Ed adds.
In Sioux Falls, S.D., he was introduced to “what it feels like” exercises for those without MD. At the time, he didn’t have any of the major neurological problems he faces today, that force him to walk with a pronounced limp.
Ed and Peggy then focused on the difficulties with balance, getting up from the floor, doing steps and other positions. With an engineering background, Ed also incorporated a few of these techniques.
Some things the couple experienced were using a shopping cart in stores to aid in balance, using walls, a cane, always asking where the bathrooms were, using electric carts and falling down, which could be one of the biggest fears.
As a result, they avoided going to Twins games, games at the Fargodome and large shopping centers. He was always telling his wife he knew what she was going through, but he didn’t until he was diagnosed with Charot Marie Tooth, a rare form of MD.
As they say, he is now walking in her shoes. Ed was always active in work and sports, having played football and baseball in college, and now it is difficult for him to accept he can’t even play golf at his age.
Ed and Peg incorporated some of the things he learned from 3M in quality control to help people with physical challenges. They started a small company and called it GEP, with the idea of bringing people together to just do things.
The couple was asked by different government agencies to lend a hand to carpenters, plumbers, electricians, hobbiests, mothers, fathers, welders and others with similar problems.
“For the last four to five years, I’ve tried to make people aware of the problems that mentally and physically handicapped people face,” added Ed. “I’ve always had a special place in my heart for those people. I like to give them attention and treat them just like other people.”
Ed’s two granddaughters, Emma and Hattie, put together little “candy baskets” for handicapped people and they are handed out at Christmas time each year at the front desk of the YMCA. They are meant to achieve 2 goals and one is helping others.
Recently, he put together a couple of “welcome home” cards for “Patti” at the Y, a handicapped 50-year-old who returned from a vacation in Montana.
He just wants people to realize the challenges handicapped people face. Well-known for his “jaw exercises” at the YMCA, his presentation, which generally lasts 20-30 minutes, is meant to help in that respect from an “in and out tub lift” to a “kids backhoe” and up to 13 other relatively simple and inexpensive devices.
The program, “Friends Helping Friends” has many different resources available. For more information, contact Ed at 218-863-7176.
By Mike Bellmore
For the Journal