Go Baby Go hopes to adapt toy cars for special needs children
By Renee Beasley Jones Messenger-Inquirer
Five-year-old Hannah Hudson watched her mom drag a decked-out pink Jeep through a wide door way at Wendell Foster, where Hannah attends therapy sessions.
The plastic Jeep had big, googly eyes on the front and a special name written across the back: Banana.
Hannah’s nickname is Hannah Banana.
When the Nuckols girl saw the Jeep, she squealed with delight. She leaned and held out her arms: “Put me in! Put me in!”
Hannah has cerebral palsy and can’t walk. Instead, she uses a move her mother, Christella Hudson, describes as a crawl-hop.
For more mobility, Hannah uses a pediatric wheelchair, but she can’t move it on her own. She needs assistance.
However, when Hannah rides in her modified Jeep, moving becomes almost effortless.
Hannah’s Jeep was one of a few made at Wendell Foster in July during a Go Baby Go professional training workshop that was sponsored by the Kentucky Assistive Technology Services Network. Go Baby Go is a national program that teaches people how to modify off-the-shelf Power Wheels and other toy cars, morphing them into motorized wheelchairs of sorts for special-needs children.
Christella Hudson nearly cried when she learned Hannah was one of the children selected to receive — free of charge — an adapted car from the Wendell Foster workshop this summer.
“We were blown away,” she said. “What an amazing gift.”
Hannah’s Go Baby Go car was rewired so she can control it with a button near her hands instead of her feet. The car is outfitted with a remote control so her parents, Jon and Christella Hudson, can drive the car for her until she learns to steer independently.
Also, the car was modified for her body’s needs. The Go Baby Go team installed supports and padding to hold Hannah’s body upright. Her seatbelt is a five-point harness for more stability.
Hannah uses the car at home for outdoor play.
“She asks a lot more than we can get it out,” her mom said. “She absolutely loves it. For her to be able to (move by) herself, it is joyful.”
The July workshop was such a success that Wendell Foster decided to start a Go Baby Go chapter. Cindy Huston, Wendell Foster technology and resource director, said forming a chapter allows the nonprofit to raise funds specifically for Go Baby Go cars.
The cars cost about $500 each to build. Huston said “a build” for five cars will be scheduled as soon as $2,500 is raised.
She hopes the effort attracts the attention of regional car lots, which might sponsor a build. For example, a lot that sells Corvettes may want to have pay to adapt Corvette toy cars into Go Baby Go vehicles.
Wendell Foster will take nominations for special-needs children who will receive the cars. To be eligible, children must work with an occupational or physical therapist to qualify.
For more information or to donate, go to wendellfoster.org/donate. Or call Huston at 270-683-4517.
Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, [email protected]
To make a donation to the new Go Baby Go program by check, download this Donation Form.