The company operates under the motif “Making dreams possible.”
Established 13 years ago, with the support of UWA and other organisations, Dreamfit makes the impossible a reality for people with disabilities.
When Darren enrolled in Engineering at UWA, he had no idea where his degree would take him. During his third year of study, Darren’s coursework required him to choose his own project to work on. He decided to take the opportunity to do something helpful for society.
The inspiration for his project came in the unexpected form of Shane, a paraplegic who lost the use of his legs in a motorbike accident. They met as Darren was parking his motorbike, and discovered a mutual love of mechanics. Shane, a one-time national motorcross champion, confessed that if he had one wish, it would be to ride a motorbike again.
Darren decided he wanted to help people like Shane, and custom-build a motorbike for paraplegics. Although this was a hefty challenge for a 3rd year uni student, Darren was given permission by the Engineering faculty to take on the challenge.
The endeavour was way out of his budget, so the first step was finding sponsors. It took hundreds of phone calls to different organisations to get most of the funding he needed. Still short, he approached Brett Kirk, Head of Mechanical Engineering at UWA. To Darren’s surprise, the University donated the remaining $8,500 he needed to make the paraplegic motorbike a reality.
“I had 13 companies on board, I had the media, so it was actually not just an idea; I’d actually gone beyond talking and started actually working towards it…So I think they could see that I was pretty committed to the cause…”
The project turned out to be bigger than Darren anticipated, but he wasn’t deterred. He took the next semester off uni, and worked throughout the summer holidays to complete the project.
“I ended up getting the bike road license, road legal and approved and paraplegics riding it and TV filming it and all that sort of stuff, which was great.”
“So many people had said to me that it wasn’t possible…Either that it couldn’t be done or it shouldn’t be done…It kind of frustrated me, and if anything made me want to prove that it was possible.”
- Darren Lomman
Darren ended up submitting the project as his thesis, and graduated with honours. He was also named Australian Bio-Mechanical Engineer of the Year while he was still at university, for an essay he wrote on the ethics of a paraplegic’s right to choose to ride a motorbike.
Although he never thought anything would stem from the project, due to the publicity the motorbike received Darren found himself inundated with requests for custom equipment from all over the world.
“Before I had even finished my degree I had about 50 year’s worth of work lined up. So one hand I [could have gone] and [got] a nice secure job in the engineering sector, digging up dirt out of the ground, or I [could] continue helping people with disabilities, so that was the path I went down.”
Before Dreamfit existed a lot of the stuff [created] wasn’t a possibility…When everyone else has said no, [Dreamfit] are the end referral. So people come and say ‘Everyone else has said it’s impossible, so we’re coming to you to make it happen’…I thrive off the stuff that people have said is impossible.”
Since graduation, Darren has continued his involvement with UWA’s Engineering department, mentoring students at Dreamfit. This gives them the opportunity to gain credits by working on projects for people with disabilities. Up to 250 students at a time have worked at Dreamfit, and UWA even donated a space for their workshop.
Dreamfit produces a huge range of innovative equipment solutions. These range from bicycles to suit every possible need to wheelchairs designed specifically for the beach or mountain climbing.
“Some projects are really simple and some are really complex, some are short and some are long. No two dreams are the same so there is no two projects the same.”
The constant flow of new and exciting challenges keeps Darren on his toes. But it’s not just the engineering opportunities that keep him invested: it’s the chance to make a real difference in the lives of others.
“It’s the tears and the thank you’s you get. The feeling you get from knowing that someone actually appreciates the work you’ve done. I don’t imagine the engineers sitting in a tower doing a spread sheet ever had someone come up to them with a tear in their eye from a parent who has just seen their kid ride a bike for the first time. I just don’t think you’d get that satisfaction from a spread sheet.”
UWA played a vital role in helping Darren reach his goals from the beginning. “Just having the flexibility to allow me as a kid to dream and take on this project which did seem so impossible…They believed in me and allowed me to pursue my dream.”
UWA was also involved in one of Dreamfit’s stand out projects to date: creating a bike for 7 year old Josiah, a boy born with no arms. 250 UWA Engineering students competed to create the best possible bike for Josiah, who was sole judge of the competition.
Josiah announced the results at a function at Burswood, attended by the media, UWA’s Vice Chancellor and CEOs from all over Perth. Darren believes that the positive attention Josiah received from the students who designed bikes for him gave Josiah the confidence to take the stage.
“Unbeknownst to us he actually wrote out this two-page speech thanking every one and he got up on stage with a microphone, and there was not a dry eye in this audience of 500 people.”
Darren’s chance meeting with Shane, 13 years ago, has sparked a movement that has changed countless people’s lives for the better. Darren’s desire to help one person do one thing has grown “organically” into an organisation that makes the impossible a reality for people all around the world.
“There [are] now teams of people that have been inspired by this whole journey to use their time, talent and energy to help other people…Dreamfit is still going to keep helping people with disabilities, which is pretty amazing to kind of know.”
Darren believes that through hard work and dedication, and by taking the initiative to make things happen, people’s dreams literally can come true.
“It’s just about pursuing and constantly chasing what you want and just keep going for it. If you give up you are never going to achieve it…Just keep fighting until you get the success.”
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