Overcoming injury inspires Charles City man to promote fitness
When Randy Oneill fell while constructing a pole shed more than 20 years ago in Charles City, he had an option to let life pass him by after breaking four vertebrae. Instead, he bounced back and took a proactive approach that has now spread throughout the state of Virginia and even nationwide.
Oneill founded “Virginia is for Education”, a nonprofit education group that focuses on providing schools with an economical means of achieves SOL (Standards of Learning) health goals using mobile exercising facilities.
“I have a background in fitness and when I broke my back, I turned to that,” Oneill said in a Friday morning interview. “It started after volunteering at MCV (Medical College of Virginia) and seeing how unprepared the facility was for children who may suffer an injury similar in nature as mine.”
With Oneill knowing that a new line of work was in order, his focus turned to creating items that encouraged exercise to be a preventive measure to minimize injuries. His first creation: a mobile trailer with 30 stationary bikes.
“I just had to keep moving or my body would freeze up like a stone,” he said. “That’s when I decided to build a mobile platform with these bikes.”
The exercise trailer found success early on. Former Richmond mayor Douglas Wilder encouraged Oneill to take his station to schools and community events in Richmond. Since then, the $150,000 rig has made trips across the state, but has become a commodity for both Charles City and New Kent.
“I have taken it to New Kent and Charles City schools,” the inventor said. “New Kent Parks and Recreation have put it to use and last winter, Charles City Parks and Recreation took advantage of it.”
Oneill didn’t stop at the trailer. His recent invention, known as the Sportboard, has already seen its fair share of buzz.
“Being a person that loves to go to the mountains, I noticed many people on snowboards and falling off it,” Oneill commented. “As I sat in on a conversation, it was shocking to hear that 350 head injuries occurred this last winter break where I was at. That was just the kids!”
The inventor found a 1960 water ski, using the uniqueness of the item and constructed a base. His goal was to create a training device for kids who are interested in snowboarding and skateboarding.
“I created a prototype and took it to 60 schools,” Oneill said. “It was tested, refined, and the kids love it.”
“It was the height of a real skateboard and the design came to a point where I wanted an item that would be an item to prevent injuries,” he added. “I didn’t want to compromise the health and safety, I wanted to improve it and prevent it.”
Oneill’s concept, invention, and background story for the creation of the Sportboard earned him a spot on the ABC show “The Toy Box” in its second season.
“I submitted videos and had five interviews,” the inventor said. “I showed that it promoted good fitness, balance, strength, and it was fun for kids.”
While Oneill didn’t get to advance to the finals on the show, he believes his efforts had a positive effect on both him and others.
“The experience renewed confidence to continue working on the design to benefit children,” Oneill said. “Getting on television was a victory to improve kids’ health.”
Since his appearance, Oneill has received inquiries about his trailer and Sportboard to continue to push preventive fitness. But for now, the new Charles City resident says he hopes to continue to work with his closest two localities.
“I hope to have the opportunity to bring the trailer, Sportboard, and other activities to New Kent and Charles City,” Oneill said as he wrapped up the interview. “I want people to have good health and happiness heading into the new year.”