Necessity is the Sister of invention.
EazyHold was invented by three sisters who understood how important it is to maintain independence through adversity.
The Mellin sisters found that activities they always loved to do were becoming more challenging. Nature's inevitable wear and tear on joints can take a toll on your grip strength. Determined to maintain their active lifestyle, they innovated a way to get a better grip and continue to do the things they loved.
In 2014, Kerry Mellin was preparing her ranch in Simi Valley Ca. for the family's annual party. While cleaning the barn, she grabbed the broom and began to sweep, but rehabbing a past thumb injury, it was painful to continue. A lifelong cowgirl, it shocked her to think that simply sweeping out her own barn would become literally such a pain!
With family due to arrive shortly, she knew she had to finish her chores, so she grabbed some duct tape, made a loop across the broom's handle, and slipped her hand inside. Surprised at how effortless it felt having this little bit of support over the back of her hand, it allowed her to maintain control of the broom with minimal grip and sweep pain-free. And it got her thinking about all of the people who may also be in the same situation.
Kerry says, "Later at the party, I told my sisters about the tape on the broom, and while it gave us all a good laugh, we realized that there was a huge population on the horizon of aging baby boomers wanting to stay active and engaged in life too. We decided right there to innovate a gripping aid. So the very next day my sisters and I jumped into action and began researching, designing, and making prototypes to trial."
They did have some knowledge of the assistive devices on the market and particularly how they'd not changed in 30 years. Kerry had spent a year volunteering at Northridge Hospital's Occupational Therapy Center and remembered how limited the tools were at that time. "The cuffs we used back then were made of leather, elastic, and scratchy velcro. They were not hygienic or adaptable to more than a standard fork. I remember as soon as they got wet the patients would complain they were uncomfortable (and worse, really unsanitary!) Because preventing the spread of germs and bacteria was of the utmost importance, we rarely used them. Instead, we would mock up a temporary throw-away cuff using available resources like tape, ace bandages, rubber bands, and yes, even popsicle sticks!"
The Mellin sisters researched the advancements made since then, and surprisingly enough, the latest technology was the invention of Hook and Loop in the 1950s, and nothing since then! Technology had leapfrogged right over those who needed it most to robotic hands and arm technology. But who can afford this? They are cumbersome, expensive, and not accessible to most.
"We knew we could do much better. We would design grip aids to be inclusive of everyone. They would be simple, inexpensive, multi-tool adaptable, comfortable, and most importantly, super hygienic. We decided to use silicone which had all of those qualities."
Wendy, Kerry, and Merrily Mellin
"The kitchens in our homes became our workshops, and in between our 'real' jobs, (Kerry - a motion picture costume designer, Merrily - a director of early education facilities, Wendy - an artist and chef) we carefully sculpted clay models, crafted wood molds, and mastered the delicate technique necessary to mix, color, pour and cure temperamental silicone. After a pretty steep learning curve, we had prototyped 20 different sizes and styles and had made 1,000 samples to trial before launching."
"With boots on the ground and free samples in tow, we got to work visiting therapy centers, and hospitals. Though we have no medical backgrounds or degrees, we doggedly tried to set up appointments with therapists, and though the receptionists were fascinated by our idea, they had no protocol to fit us in. However, we love a challenge, so we began to camp out in the hallways and lunchrooms until we saw a therapist walk by and then ambushed them, prototypes in hand, to demonstrate how much more effective and hygienic our simple universal cuffs were compared to the devices they'd been using for so many years."
"We continued to drop off samples to professionals throughout Southern California. We sent them out for trials at educational facilities, nursing homes, hospitals, to the parents of special needs children we connected with, and showed our product at local disability expos."
"The response we received was profound. Each therapist and parent we showed our EZs to instantly recognized the value of our innovation and wondered why this hadn't been invented before. We began getting requests and invitations from all over the country to send more samples, and to demonstrate our product to the therapists, nurses, and teachers on staff at hospitals, schools, and sports facilities."
"Little did we know that there was also a huge community of children with special needs who needed this long-overdue problem solver as well. The word of mouth from parents of children with disabilities was loud and clear as the news traveled that there was a grip assist small enough for children's hands and that it worked effortlessly. We received messages like; My daughter has been able to draw her first Valentine's Day card! And: My son is able to hold his own bottle and spoon to self-feed for the first time. Incredible testimonials were filling our inboxes."
"What very simply started as a way to help people with arthritis like my sisters and I have, quickly evolved into so much more. With two Patents, design and utility, trademarks, and copyright, our product is becoming a staple in hospitals, therapy, and pediatric centers. We've found that our EazyHolds have become invaluable for those with cerebral palsy, Parkinson's disease, Rett syndrome, stroke, limb loss, and other conditions that limit a person’s grip. Our little straps, born out of necessity, are quickly becoming the standard of quality care.
Now supplied globally to over 8,000 schools, hospitals, and therapy centers, EazyHold is now recognized worldwide in university curricula, and academic textbooks on 'Instructional Basic Assistive Technology Application and Procedure.'
"We've met so many wonderful people along the way and are thankful for the opportunity to be of service and to experience the joy of seeing how EazyHold is bringing people closer to the control, dignity, fulfillment, self-esteem, and the independence we all seek and deserve."
Here's to your well-being!
Kerry, Merrily, and Wendy Mellin
EazyHold is now a proud member of RESNA, Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America