AMHERST — A group of volunteers reconfigured toys Saturday to give children with special needs something most take for granted — mobility.
Children’s Developmental Center in Amherst and RePlay for Kids, a Medina-based nonprofit, teamed up to adapt Power Wheels toy cars for children who don’t have the capability to use a foot pedal. The Steel Survivors motorcycle club in Elyria helped the groups.
“It just gives these kids the opportunity to be independent,” Sarah Durham, an occupational therapist with Children’s Developmental Center, said. “They can push the button, and the car can go. Most of them rely on somebody to do everything for them. It’s just a nice way for them to be in their environment, socialize and have fun. They also get to do something similar to that of their peers and siblings.”
Natalie Wardega, director of operations with RePlay for Kids, said giving mobility to children with special needs is very important.
Camden Loftus, a 15-month-old with spina bifida, received a car Saturday.
“This little boy had seen a car at Cleveland Clinic,” Wardega said. “His grandmother brought him and said that after he was in the car — that little bit of movement changed him and made him more aware of his environment and space. It was pretty exciting to see her go home with a car for her grandson.”
Durham said Camden’s face “just lit up when he got in the car and started to go.”
Durham’s 4-year-old daughter, Molly, who has cerebral palsy, also received a car Saturday.
“The whole time she was saying, ‘I’m getting a new car! I’m getting a car! I got a pink car!’” Durham said. “They just love it, because it’s something fun. It’s kind of hard to find things for our kids that are still something typical that kids do.”
Families that receive the reconfigured cars don’t have to pay for them, Wardega said.
“All the supplies and the cars were purchased and donated by the Community Foundation of Lorain County,” she said. “We work with the Children’s Developmental Center to identify kids who are in need of these cars, and then we give those cars to the families.”
RePlay for Kids was founded by Bill Memberg, a biomedical engineer at Case Western Reserve University. In 1992 he saw an ad in the paper that the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities had toys that needed to be fixed. He stopped at the CCBDD and picked up a box of broken toys, fixed them and returned them.
When he returned them, he was told there were more toys that needed fixed. After that, he found a calling.
“In 1999 we formally became a nonprofit, and now we do 130 workshops a year,” Wardega said. “We adapt toys, as well as cars. In December we have an adapted-toy giveaway where we invite up to 44 different agencies in Northeast Ohio, and we give them adapted toys. Last year we gave away more than 1,500 adapted toys.”
Children’s Developmental Center has been adapting toy cars for children for two years, according to Durham. Including the six that were adapted Saturday, the organization has adapted 36 cars total.