Since 2006, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Golden Valley has worked with employees from the Cummins Power Generation site in Fridley to modify toys so that they are accessible for children with limited mobility.
Each year, volunteer Cummins employees work to adapt hundreds of donated toys that Courage Kenny distributes around the holiday season to children with different abilities. The modified toys go to therapists, teachers and staff from community organizations who share them with children.
Toys are modified so that they can be used by children with limited mobility
A Golden Valley-based rehabilitation institute is continuing its partnership with local engineers to ensure that kids with limited mobility get the chance to play with a toy they enjoy.
Since 2006, Allina Health’s Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute has worked with employees from the Cummins Power Generation site in Fridley to modify toys so that they are accessible for children with different abilities.
Each year, Cummins engineers work to adapt hundreds of donated toys that Courage Kenny distributes around the holiday season. The toys go to therapists, teachers and staff from community organizations who share them with children.
Helping organize the program is Matt White, an occupational therapist and supervisor for Courage Kenny’s assistive technology program.
“What our department focuses on are technologies that help people be more independent in certain areas of life,” he said.
With volunteer help from engineers at Cummins, the program has been able to produce around 10,000 adapted toys over the years that can be operated with a simple switch.
“A switch often looks like a big button. It makes it easier for a child with different abilities to use the toy. For instance, a child can touch the switch to activate a toy with their elbow, chin, foot or another part of their body,” White said. “Say it’s a stuffed animal where you have to push the paw and it makes noise or lights up. If a kid can’t interact with a toy that way, you have a cord and an adapted button that now can be plugged into that toy. ... It gives all kids the ability to just play, which is important for everyone.”
Another unique aspect of the program, White said, is that the volunteers strive to put all the toys back into their original packaging so that when a child receives it as a gift it looks like it was just purchased from the store.
“It doesn’t look any different than any other toy, it just happens to be switch adapted so that they can play with it,” he said.
White reflected on one particular story he had heard about a mother whose daughter quickly came to understand the principle of cause and effect by playing with an adapted LED light-up fan.
“She figured out that the switch makes the fan go on in one day. She was able to learn cause and effect which had been a very difficult concept for her,” White said. “The mom was really excited because her child picked up that skill right away just by using the toy that the therapist gave her.”
Another person who’s excited to be part of the program is Matt Ethen, an engineering manager with Cummins and a longtime volunteer for Courage Kenny.
“This particular partnership works really well because we leverage the various strengths and different skills and capacities that we have within Cummins,” Ethen said. “And our volunteers also have a lot of fun. They get a chance to be a kid again by interacting and playing with the toys. And you get that direct feedback when you modify that toy and see how it works and benefits a child.”
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