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Architecture students give Syracuse man new lease on life

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Architecture students give Syracuse man new lease on life
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A medical condition has kept a Syracuse man inside his home for nearly a year. With a little help from some SU architecture students, that will change this week. Our Iris St. Meran has more on how a class project is providing him a new found freedom.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Paul Halko has only been able to watch the seasons change from the inside of his Cadillac Street home.

Halko said, "I've been stuck in the house since July."

That's when walking became difficult and a wheelchair became his only way to move around because of a disease called IBM.

"Inclusion Body Myositis. It is an auto-immune disease in which something in your body changes," Halko said. "And your body begins to fight and eat your muscles."

He and his wife, Gloria, have other expenses and couldn't afford to build a ramp. But these SU architecture students' passion for design now means freedom.

"I cried over the phone. I couldn't believe it," said Halko.

They're building him that ramp as part of a national community service program called Freedom by Design.

Freedom by Design Team Captain Hilary Barlow said, "Our whole idea is not to design, just the simple easy solution, but to kind of expand like the typical notion of what a ramp is. So we've also designed an outdoor space for Paul."

Each day, a team of seven to 10 work around the clock, even in the elements.

"Last week has been torrential downpours, so we haven't been able to fill some of the holes. We had to come back a few days to drill the holes," said project manager Brian Luce.

When the rain stops and with each nail that gets hammered, they are a step closer to welcoming Halko outside.

Halko said, "I'm just counting the days."

Halko's daughter will be graduating from Elmira College in a few years. He never thought he would actually be able to see her walk across the stage until now.

"She's working hard and I told her I'm going to see her do it," Halko said. "So now, I got to keep my end of the bargain."

That won't be hard to do with the help of these students who he now thinks of as friends. This ramp should be completed Friday. The group is building a ramp for another individual.

To donate or learn more about Freedom by Design, visit www.aias.org.

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