Inventor says safety device God-inspired
Stroke does not keep man from developing children's product

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By Mitchell Plumlee, mplumlee@bgdailynews.com -- 270-783-3240
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A stroke has not stopped Richard York (above) of Bowling Green from marketing a child safety device he says was inspired by God. "The Lord just gave me this design to protect the children," he says. Photo by Joe Imel




A crippling stroke could not stop a Bowling Green inventor from marketing a child safety device he says was inspired by God.
The Bodyguard, which is a plastic device that keeps car seat belts and shoulder straps from cutting into a child during an accident, will be produced in Bowling Green and distributed nationwide in the near future, according to inventor Richard York.

Still recovering from the stoke he had two years ago, York recently signed a contract with Child Safety Technology Resources of Salt Lake City to let it market and distribute the product.

"It's got an incredible market," said Eric Swensen, co-owner of CST. "We're in the process of getting the production up and going. ... It's going to be made in Bowling Green and marketed in Salt Lake City."

CST's interest was sparked because the Bodyguard was created to save children's lives, Swensen said.

"The cause is all about children," he said. "We're about 60 days from having a product to sell. It has a great future."

York was living in Indianapolis in 1991 when he got the idea for the Bodyguard. A knee injury had put an end to his career as a truck driver and left him homebound while recuperating. He and his wife, Lori, saw a report on television about children being killed in automobile accidents by seat belts and shoulder straps.

"They showed some really graphic pictures of kids being decapitated and cut in half by seat belts and shoulder straps," Richard York said. "I told Lori, 'My gosh, I've got to do something about that.' When I went to sleep that night, it played on my mind. About 4:30 the next morning I jumped up and started drawing. The Lord just gave me this design to protect the children."

Later that day, York got a tree trunk his neighbor had cut and carved the first Bodyguard with a hammer and chisel.

When Indiana Mills & Manufacturing crash tested the Bodyguard in 1993, engineers were overwhelmed with the product's success, according to Richard York.

"After the first crash test, the engineers were jumping up and down," Richard York said. "They couldn't believe it. They ran inside and got other engineers to come and look. It was great."

York said people often ask him where he got his engineering degree.

"I laugh and say, 'The Lord gave it to me,'" he said cheerfully.

The 7-by-8 inch Bodyguard is made of plastic, sits on a child's chest and has slots for the seat belt and shoulder strap, so the belts never touch the child.

"The crash tests showed it reduces whip lash, too," Lori York said. "This wasn't even in (Richard's) thoughts when he designed it."

Richard and Lori York moved to Bowling Green in 1994 and formed a partnership with Bob Hanna, Gregory Loomis and Van Betulius to market the Bodyguard through Millennium Safety Products of Kalamazoo, Mich., and manufacture the product at H & W Plastics in Bowling Green.

It was sold nationwide at Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target and other retail outlets, according to Lori York.

The partnership dissolved in 1996 and the Bodyguard went out of production. Hanna changed the design and started producing a similar product called the Child Protector, but Richard York retains the rights to the original design, according to Hanna.

After their partnership dissolved, the stress of legal battles took a heavy toll on Richard York.

"I got so mad, I blew a fuse," he said, referring to his stroke caused by a brain stem bleed in November 1999.

The stroke put him on a ventilator for two-and-a-half weeks and left him unable to speak or eat, according to Lori York.

"First, the doctors said he wouldn't live," she said. "Then they said he would never move his right side or see out of his left eye. He's done everything they said he wouldn't do. He just hasn't walked yet."

Richard York says the stroke, which has left him in a wheelchair, has been a blessing.

"I wouldn't change it for the world," he said. "It changed my whole perspective on life.

"I never have a bad day anymore, because if I have a bad day, then my family has a bad day."

Richard York has turned the family kitchen into his office, complete with the computer he used to teach himself to type, since the stroke left him unable to hold a pencil. He plans to release a book of poetry he has been working on since his stroke sometime later.

"He puts us to shame," Lori York said, referring to herself and their three children; Tiffany, 10, Nathaniel, 11, and Richard III, 13. "He goes and goes and goes."

About 14 months before the stoke, Lori York was working for Airport Anytime Express. One afternoon, Richard York filled in for her and picked up a client, Mike Clark, chief executive officer of Rebel Office, a computer and office supply company in Salt Lake City.

"He picked me up at the Nashville (Tenn.) airport and gave me a ride," Clark said. "I noticed the Bodyguard on his son and I asked him what it was."

Clark was intrigued by the product and purchased 300 of the Bodyguards.

"We did a market test with some of my clients and some of my investors," he said. "It took us about 18 months to get the level of interests needed and then two or three clients stepped forward and said they wanted to take this project on."

Clark said Richard York was determined to get his product back on the market.

"He's definitely a driver," Clark said. "He probably called me about 20 times."

Clark and his partner, Brook Thomas, then formed CST with Tom and Eric Swensen.

"This is one of those products you could take international," Clark said. "We're going to go after the large retailers and the Internet."

Duane Hunt, co-owner of H & W Plastics, said no one from CST has yet approached him about putting the Bodyguard back in production.

Meanwhile, Richard York said after the Bodyguard gets into production, he has a safer car seat he plans to market.


__________________________________________________ __
Maksim (Max) Bily
mail to : imax@odyssee.net
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