AUSTIN (KXAN) — Preschooler Henry Ferry had a day that he’ll remember for a long time.
“Henry has hearing loss and he’s also got some vision loss and some mobility issues, so typically he wouldn’t be able to use a car like this at all,” Henry’s mom Liz Ferry said.
Henry has CHARGE syndrome, which is a genetic mutation that causes different birth defects. For 4-year-old Henry, that meant being born with a cleft lip and palate, having airway issues and several surgeries and hospitalizations.
“It’s pretty difficult because most items that are engineered or designed for typical children don’t have the accommodation that he needs,” his mom said.
So a group of students at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy in Austin wanted to change that.
They started a local chapter at the start of the 2018-2019 school year of a national organization called Go Baby Go, which is a program that provides modified toy cars to children up to three years old, who experience limited mobility.
“We were exposed to the idea of children with mobility disabilities not really having as much opportunity to move around independently,” said Mckenna Eberett, a senior at LASA high school.
They called it Project Zoom Zoom.
Working together with their robotics team at the high school of about 40 students, Eberett and several others added special modifications to the cars to make them safe for the children receiving them.
“Building these cars gives them the opportunity to move around on their own independently and that really helps them with their social skills, spatial skills and development, so that was a great opportunity for us to just be able to help them experience that,” Eberett said.
For Henry’s vehicle, students added stairs for him to be able to get into the vehicle, they made the sounds the car makes louder, added a seatbelt and foam padding all the way around and they made the car remote controlled. On Saturday, Henry and several other children were presented with their special gift.
“Just knowing that when he gets older and other kids are talking about the toys that they had, he can say that he had one too, he’s not left out, he’s got some normal experience,” Ferry said. “Any time that he can have a normal childhood experience is great.”
“I’m so grateful to these students,” she said. “They gave this little boy something that he normally wouldn’t be able to do.”
“We’ve spent so much time this year working on it, probably this school year a total of 500 hours, and it’s crazy to see how all of this hard work, all of the frustration we’ve gone through of reaching out to people and not hearing back or getting stuck because we wanted to do it one way but we figured out we couldn’t, seeing it all come together and seeing the little kids just so happy and excited to be driving around in the cars and driving around, it’s really awesome,” said Alyssa Eckerman, another student who worked on the project.
The cars are given to families for free. If you or someone you know would like more information about getting one, you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.