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Story Behind Our New HQ Grand Opening Fundraiser

Matt Winter and his mom Rene.

N1 Critical Technologies will host its new headquarters grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony from 4-8 p.m., Thursday, July 19. But it won’t be any ordinary ribbon cutting. We’re also hosting a Casino Night Fundraiser for an amazing cause. Here’s the story of why we’re doing what we’re doing…

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Homebound or hospitalized kids will keep connected by using remote control robots in their schools

Matt Winter was just 13 when he lost his battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, a very rare type of cancerous tumor that grows in bones and surrounding soft tissues.

Diagnosed in May 2014, Matt won the first round of 22 chemotherapy treatments, but had his entire Tibia removed. That’s where the cancer had started.

He was a year into remission when the cancer had come back. It was May 2017, the end of his 7th grade year. Doctors gave him two weeks. He fought hard, and battled the spreading cancer until he passed Nov. 12, 2017.

Matt never got the chance to make it into the 8th grade at JC McKenna Middle School in Evansville. He was bedridden. In a hospital. Far from friends. Isolated. Feeling alone.

“He lost touch with a lot of kids, a lot of his friends, when he was sick,” said his mom Rene Wieloch.

Telepresence Robot

After Matt passed, Max Ellsworth, one of his best friends — one he never lost touch with — had an idea. Max’s dad Nate, the CEO of N1 Critical Technologies, had bought a web-remote-controlled Telepresence robot to drive around the office and have fun “peeking” in on his co-workers down the hall.

Max said that if his buddy Matt had one of the mobile robots, he could have still experienced school, at least by seeing and conversing with his friends, classmates and teachers via two-way video conferencing on the robot’s attached iPad.

“Matt was really into technology,” Rene said. “He would have loved that.”

Nate quickly realized Max was onto something.

“It was a great idea, and I knew students could get much more practical use out of the robot than I ever could around the office,” Nate Ellsworth, the company’s co-founder, said. “There is so much value in allowing homebound students to be able to connect with their classmates and teachers and at least have some sense of normalcy during difficult situations.”

The robot soon found new life at Edison Middle School in Janesville, where it is intended to serve homebound students in the same way Matt would have enjoyed if he had the chance. (See story about the donation in the Janesville Gazette.)

N1C’s Casino Night Fundraiser will support the purchase of additional telepresence robots to be donated to area schools in Matt’s name.

“When he was undergoing chemo, he was really homesick. The robot would have been very beneficial to him to be at the hospital to be able to keep up with his friends and his schoolwork,” Rene said.

Donations made by grand opening attendees who are playing the casino games or buying raffle tickets outright will support schools and support kids going through the toughest of times with the hopes of making their situations and their lives a little bit better.

Proceeds will also support the newly-created Winter’s Soldier Foundation, which was set up by Matt’s mom, Rene Wieloch. The Winter’s Soldier Foundation supports the purchase of technology — movies, videogames, computers, etc. — for homebound or hospitalized students so they can have something to remain engaged and entertained while receiving treatments.

The grand opening, ribbon cutting, and fundraiser is a Forward Janesville Business After 5 event. For full event details, click here.

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