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Stephen Kelly - April 2022

This month's community spotlight features Stephen Kelly, who has been an avid participant of our TOM Makeathon programs, first as a Need-Knower in 2019, and then as a Maker in the Ballarat regional Makeathon that same year.

Hear about Stephen's experiences and why he continues to lend his expertise and knowledge to TOM: Melbourne.


Image description: Stephen smiling while sitting in his wheelchair out in nature

[Photography by Sandy Scheltema]


How did you come to be involved in the TOM: Melbourne Makeathon?

After finding out about TOM through social media, my first TOM experience was as a Need-Knower in the 2019 Makeathon. I became hooked and then participated again as a Maker in the Ballarat Makeathon.


What was your experience participating in the Makeathon?

The Makeathon experience was intense! As a team we had spent some time before the Makeathon weekend researching the need and some possible approaches so we were able to start on the process of making a prototype early. We were therefore able to create a pretty amazing finished working solution.


What I hadn’t expected was the commitment from the whole team, the care and support offered by the TOM crew - from the Mentors to the caterers - all coming together for the benefit of the individual Need-Knowers. I suppose this was what motivated me to become involved as a Maker, as I realised that those on the making side were getting as much out of it as the Need-Knowers.


Can you tell us how you are still involved with TOM: Melbourne? What motivates you to stay involved?

This year I took part in the Challenge Selection Panel for the upcoming Makeathon and TOM@University Program. My motivation comes from knowing that the solutions created by the TOM approach - whether through Makeathons or the TOM@University program - are unique and tailored to the needs of the individuals and solved through collaborative effort.


People living with a disability are more than aware of the difficulties in front of them every day, and are able to define the need for a solution very well.


What’s great about TOM is having a group of talented and committed people working together to find those solutions and tailor them to individual needs. As a not for profit organisation, the TOM approach can bypass the perceived restrictions often faced in

the commercial world where bespoke solutions are rare and costly, and the voices of those who need specific solutions are often not heard.

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