Necessity has long been the mother of invention, but thanks to cutting-edge technology and the power of social media, the leap from inspiration to reality can happen almost overnight. If you doubt it, just ask Jimmy Choi.
Choi is an amazing athlete. He also suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosed at age 27 with early-onset symptoms, Choi uses fitness to battle his illness.
The four-season veteran of American Ninja Warrior has an impressive record that includes one ultra marathon, 16 marathons, 100 half marathons (and counting), plus numerous 5Ks, 10Ks, and triathlons.
On top of that, he’s also raised close to $500,000 for Parkinson’s research, which he considers his greatest accomplishment.
In addition to his TV appearances, Choi is best known for showcasing feats of athleticism via social media to serve as both inspiration and positive reinforcement for fans as well as those facing similar health challenges.
While dealing with the big stuff rarely fazes him, little things—like something as simple as opening a prescription bottle—have left him stymied.
In a recent TikTok video, he shared that frustration with his followers. For Choi’s online team, it was tantamount to firing a starting pistol, and off they went on a race to find a working solution.
It started with designer Brian Alldridge, who came up with a Parkinson’s friendly pill bottle, but he didn’t have a 3D printer to make one. Alldridge passed the baton, posting his design and offering to share his files with anyone who thought they could bring his idea to life.
Enter David Exler, a.k.a. “the Hungry Engineer,” who not only ran the next leg of the relay but crossed the finish line with a working 3D-printed prototype for Choi in record time.
“It really is truly amazing to see how the community jumped in,” Choi told CBC’s As It Happens host, Carol Off. “Folks that have no connection to Parkinson’s decided, ‘Hey, you know what? I have an idea. And here’s the idea.’ And then other folks jump in and say, ‘Hey, I love your idea. I can help you with that,’ and next thing you know, we’ve got a prototype within days.”
To keep up the momentum, Exler plans to ship a total of 50 units to anyone in need in exchange for a $5 donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
Meanwhile, Alldridge is vetting manufacturers to discuss mass-production. He plans to earmark all proceeds for non-profits. He’s also teamed up with a patent attorney to maintain his design’s “open source” status, so fellow tinkerers can continue to improve it as they see fit.
Choi, who was understandably blown away by the energetic response his TikTok video received, was also happy to be able to harness the power of social media for a good cause for a change.
“There’s a lot of negativity out there, especially in the last several months,” Choi told Off. “But people need to see the positive side that social media can be used for good things and for things that are helping and making an impact, not just on one person, two people… we’re talking thousands of people that this will have an impact on.”