Active Hands had humble beginnings. The company started with Rob and Mel’s Mum, Marion, making gripping aids for Rob and his wheelchair rugby teammates. As word about the products got out, demand grew and Marion could not keep up. It was at this early stage that Shirley joined Active Hands.
Shirley Joins the Company
Shirley was one of the first members of the Active Hands team. She was friends with Marion, our founder, and in 2006, she had been offered a place at university to train as an Occupational Therapist. She mentioned to Marion that the secondment she’d been promised hadn’t materialised. Marion shared that she couldn’t keep up with demand for Active Hands Gripping Aids, and that she could do with some help. It seemed like the obvious fit, as Shirley could exercise another part of her brain whenever she got tired of studying. Each week Marion would give her the components for a new batch of aids and Shirley would return ten finished products.
Of course I had no idea how much the company – and my role within it – would grow. When Marion became too ill to continue, I felt honoured to take over more of her tasks, and to find a new use for the knowledge and experience I’d gained during my time in the clothing trade.
Shirley has worked with us for 15 years. She has played a major part in making the company what it is today.
Shirley’s role in Active Hands
As she works behind the scenes, many of you won’t be aware of Shirley’s role in Active Hands. Unless you have requested a bespoke aid… she has made special sizes, extra strong gripping aids, new ways of attaching aids and so much more!
Shirley also heads up our sewing team who make some of our low volume gripping aids. She makes sure the team know which aids they are making, cuts the neoprene for them and does the sewing on of the neoprene.
If that wasn’t enough, Shirley also makes up our prototype products, assisting Rob and Clare in designing new neoprene-based products. Using her experience to add in her own suggestions too.
It has been a privilege to be part of the growing Active Hands empire, and to be able to make a difference to the lives of people with impaired hand function. Reading the testimonials, and seeing videos of people achieving more than they could have dreamed possible, makes it feel more than worthwhile.
So What’s Next?
Alongside her work for Active Hands, Shirley is an Occupational Therapist and has set up a charity called Understanding Dementia. The charity helps people to think differently about treating dementia. She helps to train family, carers and health & care professionals to understand dementia differently and lessen its impact on those with live with it.
We at Active Hands are so grateful for all that Shirley has contributed to the Company over many many years. She was key in the early years, getting the company up and running and sharing her expertise. And she has remained central to the company moving forward and continuing to grow. We will miss having Shirley on the team and wish her all the best in the future. We know that her charity will make a positive difference to many peoples’ lives.
Melanie Smith, Active Hands Director
Rob and Mel visited Shirley to pass on our thanks and give her an engraved vase to mark her time with us. We will miss Shirley and we are so grateful for all she has done to help the company grow over the years.