Advancing National Service

Being Severely Burned Didn’t Stop This Veteran From Hitting the Links

November 6, 2014
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Being Severely Burned Didn’t Stop This Veteran From Hitting the Links
Retired Army sergeant Rick Yarosh tries out a modified golf club designed by two students from SUNY-Polytechnic Institute. Sitrin Health Care Center via Facebook
It's a story of compassion, ingenuity and 3-D printing.

Before enlisting in the Army, Rick Yarosh of Windsor, N.Y., had taken up golf and was getting good at it. He planned to continue his pursuit of the sport when he returned from deployment.

But in 2006, while Yarosh served as a sergeant in Iraq, an I.E.D. exploded, burning 60 percent of his body and causing him to lose his nose, ears, a leg and several fingers. Since then, Yarosh has been continuing his physical therapy while also working at Sitrin Health Care Center, helping with its military rehabilitation program.

Yarosh was eager to try golf again, but he couldn’t find an adaptive club that worked with his disabilities. Luckily, two students from SUNY-Polytechnic Institute (near Utica, N.Y.) stepped in to help.

Nicholas Arbour and Adam Peters had a class assignment to solve a real-world problem and started meeting with Yarosh in January to design a golf club that would accommodate his needs. Arbour and Peters studied professional golfers’ swings and created three prototypes on a 3-D printer to develop their final design, which includes a wrist guard and a handle that Yarosh can hold while he swings the club.

On October 28, Arbour and Peters presented Yarosh with his new golf club at a ceremony at Sitrin Health Care Center. “I’m so happy,” Yarosh tells Syracuse.com. “I tried the club and I could hit the ball with it quite a distance. Now I can go out with my friends again and play golf. It’s an incredible feeling…I used to wrestle and play football, and I like to be competitive. It was another piece of my life that I lost, and these two helped me get that back.”

Arbour and Peters earned top grades from their professor for their project. “I would have written to their professor and protested if they didn’t get an A,” Yarosh says. “They worked really hard at this, and it means a lot to me.”

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