Giving kids with disabilities the gift of movement

As a member of the engineering team here at Jump Simulation, we pride ourselves on developing solutions in health care whether it be to better train our clinicians or improve a process within our OSF HealthCare facilities. But we also enjoying using our talents to help the patients we serve after they’ve left our care. That’s why we’re excited to be partnering with staff at the OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois as well as volunteers around the city to offer GoBabyGo in Peoria.

GoBabyGo is an international program that originated out of the University of Delaware by Cole Galloway, a physical therapy professor and infant behavior expert. Galloway’s research showed that children with physical limitations often have developmental and motor delays due to the inability to explore and learn through their environment. He came up with the idea to modify battery-operated cars, allowing children with disabilities to play and explore more independently.

The program was recently brought to Peoria in 2017 to serve our pediatric patients thanks to Dr. Sue Caldecott-Johnson, Division Chief of Child Development and Rehabilitation and Mimi Ardis, a Clinical Services Coordinator and Nurse at OSF Children’s Hospital. Ardis, who organizes and raises money to purchase cars for recommended patients, enlists our Jump engineering team along with volunteers from OSF, Caterpillar and robotics teams from area high schools to work together on this effort.

What happens during the GoBabyGo event?

On Saturday, March 3, I along with Sister M. Pieta—our newest bioengineer at Jump, got in early to split our volunteers into groups who were charged with re-wiring and modifying the small vehicles to address the needs of the pediatric patients who would receive them.

“Some of the cars were equipped with push buttons on the steering wheel for children who don’t have the leg strength to push the acceleration pedal, some were adapted with shoulder harnesses for those without trunk stability and all of the vehicles included a toggle switch for parents to easily stop the car for safety reasons,” said Ardis. “Add to that the other special features such as lighting, a radio and an mp3 player and these vehicles were certainly one-of-a-kind.”

After four hours of work, we were able to gift the cars to six pediatric patients from 18 months to 6 years old who were recommended by either family physicians or physical therapists.

“It was beautiful to see the kids in the cars for the first time,” said Sister M. Pieta. “Their smiles beamed across the room as they tried out all the different features of their vehicles.”

Beyond that, it was great to have all of these individuals from around the community take the time to help us with this project. For the high school students who joined us, we felt this program gave them a taste of the good they could do with their engineering abilities in the future. It was a bit of an indirect STEM learning opportunity.  

More to come!

The GoBabyGo program was first launched in Peoria for kids with Spina Bifida, a birth defect where a baby’s spinal cord fails to develop properly. The latest effort was expanded to serve other kids with disabilities.

“When we put this together last year for the first time, it was always my goal to ensure all children with mobility issues would the get the chance to take part in this program,” said Ardis. “As the word get outs and more money is raised, we plan to buy enough cars and modification materials to hold this event twice a year.”

Anyone interested in learning more about GoBabyGo or donating to the program should contact the OSF Healthcare Foundation.   
Categories: Bioengineering, Community, Events, Innovation, Pediatrics, STEM