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Saddle River Paraplegic Inspires TED Audiences With Survival Story

Ron Gold, founder of Lean On We, a new kind of home health care agency.
Ron Gold, founder of Lean On We, a new kind of home health care agency. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ron Gold

SADDLE RIVER, N.J. — Ron Gold of Saddle River, the paraplegic founder of the home care company, Lean On We, recently delivered a TEDx talk at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

His one-of-a-kind company plugged neatly into the theme of the TEDxNJIT event.

“We wanted to focus this year on ideas that engage the community in collaboration and innovation,” said Judith Sheft, associate vice president for technology and enterprise development at NJIT.

With his company, Gold changed the model of home health care by helping people pair up privately with well-vetted, well-suited, affordable caregivers. Customers pay only after they've found the caregiver they want to hire.

They pay a lifetime charge of $395, for which they get an ongoing service relationship with LeanOnWe, which has liability and theft insurance, as well as unlimited backups.

That’s exactly the arrangement Gold, who sold Asian equities on Wall Street, needed but couldn’t find when his life was turned upside down.

Five years ago, on a Saturday afternoon, he was bicycling near his home when he was struck head on by an SUV.

After extensive surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center and 51 days in its intensive care unit, Gold emerged from the experience unable to walk.

His health care policy covered home health aides for only two months, leaving him to pay at least $100 a day, out of pocket, for the rest of his life.

Like most people, he turned to hiring aides privately. There was a problem, though: they were unvetted.

Lean On We changed all that.

“It’s been quite a journey from the wild west of Wall Street to the wild west of home care,” said Gold, who delivered his talk Wednesday night. “But helping people has given me a renewed purpose.”

For him, the company was a turning point: Before it, Gold said, he saw himself as a victim. Since it’s been open, he knows he’s a survivor.

Gold shared the stage with a number of luminaries, including Gerard Adams, who co-founded Fownders, a nonprofit community of entrepreneurs in Newark; Dr. Tara Alvarez, who does vision-related research at NJIT; and Mark Scotland, who is working on a revolutionary vehicle emission technology.

TEDxNJIT is an independently organized event licensed by TED, a nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading, usually in the form of powerful, 18-minute talks delivered by leading thinkers and doers.

Now in its fifth year, TEDxNJIT targets the NJIT community and those at surrounding colleges and universities in Newark, including Rutgers University, Essex County College, Berkeley College and Seton Hall University.

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