Six central Alberta children had their lives changed over the weekend.
At Southside Dodge in Red Deer on Saturday, Variety- the Children’s Charity of Alberta gifted six “Go Baby Go” vehicles, small toy jeeps that have been modified to fit the specific needs of each child, who are living with disabilities or limited mobility.
The charity organization brought the program to Alberta three years ago from the U.S. and has gifted more than 100 vehicles, through sponsorships to kids across the province.
“We knew that it was a need in the community to be able to support kids that have multiple, complex disability and mobility disabilities,” said Kari Richardson, Variety Alberta director of partnerships.
Richardson explained that Variety Alberta routinely has a waitlist for families looking to be matched with a vehicle so when they are able to finally gift the vehicles, it’s a special day.
“The program is growing and every time we do a gifting for these kids and it’s on the radio or in the newspaper, the families come to us which is amazing,” she said.
“There’s definitely a need in the community. When we do a gifting, we get lots of kids on our waitlist. We always have a waitlist. We’re always looking for sponsors to be able to support the kids. That’s our key role because the kids are always there to be able to be matched up in the program.”
The cars are modified toy jeeps that have the foot pedals replaced with push-button technology on the steering wheel. They also change out the seating as well to fit each individual child’s needs.
“We get the child’s profile ahead of time and find out what their disabilities are and we specifically modify the vehicle for them,” Richardson said.
For Brittany O’Donnell, whose daughter Maddox, 5, has broken over 50 bones in her young life and lives with brittle bone disease, the new vehicle is a lifesaver.
“She had no idea what we were doing today, we kept it a surprise. I think she was so surprised when we pulled up,” said the Blackfalds mother.
“When she saw it, she was just thrilled.”
O’Donnell explained that they’ve had such a hard time finding safe toys for Maddox to use.
“It makes me so happy. Toys are sometimes a challenge for Maddox because she is so little and she’s always at risk of breaking. The fact that she was safe and could just drive off with her brother, that was super cute,” Brittany said.
“Toys are not made adaptable a lot of the time, so it’s super cool that they do this.”
Richardson explained it is those moments that makes all the work worthwhile.
“The smiles on these faces are absolutely incredible. That’s really where the impact is,” she said.
“When we’re able to design these vehicles specifically for those kids and then for them to take the vehicles home – it’s theirs to keep and use in the community. They’re now inclusive – they’re now a part of the community and that’s really important to us.
“They’re able to jump in the car with their friends, family and take it to the park and kids just flock to these cars, so now they’re the ‘cool kids’ and in the end, it’s about inclusion.”