Sam Drost and her mom are shown in the center, alongside photos of volunteers installing smart tech

Not a Luxury, But a Lifeline: Smart Tech & Target Do-Good-ers Are Changing This Woman’s Life

“You can’t always control what obstacles you’ll face in life, but you can choose how you react to them…” words of wisdom from Samantha Drost, who knows all-too-well that life can change in an instant. Nearly 12 years ago, a gorgeous day at the beach turned tragic when a boogie board accident left the active 19-year-old a quadriplegic. But Sam also knows the power of perseverance. She’s built a full, active life, graduating from college and then interning and working for Target. For more than five years, she’s been part of our Target team, crunching numbers and data to improve guests’ experiences, and inspiring all those around her. Last month, it was our turn to inspire her. And now some small smart technology is making a big difference in her life.

 An ah-ha moment
“I’m surrounded by awesome tech every day,” says Gene Han, Target’s vice president of enterprise strategy and innovation, who oversees Open House—a lab/store in San Francisco that lets guests experience connected living tech first-hand. “But it wasn’t until my wife Jamie visited Open House with me that I realized that our products could be life-changing.”

“Jamie’s dedicated much of her career to supporting people with disabilities,” says Gene. “And as we chatted that day—and as I talked to Target team members later—I started to think about how we could use our skills and this cool technology to help others. We decided to use our Target volunteer time to install the smart technology that we love and use every day in a disabled team member’s home, with the hope of making their day-to-day life just a little easier.”

Gene and team turned to Target’s Ability Awareness Network—a passionate group of 350+ team members that helps foster an inclusive culture for all abilities at Target. And they knew just the person. “I was extremely excited when they called,” says Sam. “I told the team about some of the obstacles I face on a daily basis, and they immediately had all these ideas about products that could make my life easier.”

Getting to work
On May 24, a team of eight Target volunteers rolled in to Minnetonka, Minn., where Sam lives with her family, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Take a look:

A lifeline
So, what does Sam think about her new tech? “I can’t thank the team enough. For me, this technology isn’t a luxury, but a lifeline that can help me live a more independent life. When I first was hurt, if I wanted to make a phone call or turn off lamps, the assistive technology products were huge devices that took up a lot of room. Now, I’m able to do everyday tasks that I haven’t done for the past 12 years. Having the ability to by voice turn off the TV or a lamp, make a phone call or use an app to get in and out of my garage is such a freeing feeling, and it gives me peace of mind when it comes to safety issues. In case of an emergency, I would be able to call for help and get out of the house. And most amazingly, I can finally play with my nephews like I’ve never been able to before.”

“Anyone can use these new products to reduce pain points in their lives, but they have the potential to provide huge benefits to people with disabilities who want to live more independently,” says Sam. It’s technology that will change people’s lives for the better.”

Gene and team were lucky enough to experience some of that change first-hand—and it’s a moment they won’t soon forget. “Sam is a truly amazing person” says Gene. “Her drive and positivity is inspiring. We’re so glad we could play even a small part in helping her live more independently.”

Learn more about the smart products featured in this story—and many more ways technology can help make life just a little easier—on the Target Open House website

And to hear directly from Sam and see the volunteers in action, check out this video:

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