With the push of a finger, Reagan Graham starts the engine of her new ride.
“Reagan has spina bifida and has little function of her legs and she has a wheelchair is limited by her wheelchair and is able to get around on smooth surfaces. But when it gets bumpy like on rocks, grass, any other terrain that’s not concrete that’s smooth, it’s very hard for her to go. And so a vehicle like this will let her be able to explore her surroundings a lot more without being carried from place to place,” said Jordan Graham, Reagan's mother.
Reagan and fellow 2-year-old Finnley Hall along with Payton Raasch, 5, test drive their new, modified vehicles thanks to Madonna’s Research Institute and community partners.
“Madonna is a leader in rehabilitation so it’s a clean fit for us to be involved here,” said Chase Pfeifer, assistant research director for the Rehabilitation Engineering Center of Madonna's Research Institute.
The electric vehicles provide new-found freedom for these special needs children.
"They love to hop in them, they love to drive around. Even if mom or dad is actually driving them, they just like to be there and get around. I can just see them going out to the park and now they’re not in a power they’re in a car that everybody is interested in and all the kids want to come up and talk them and see what’s going on and so they can really be part of the group,” said Chase.
Each child was chosen by TherapyPlus staff and evaluated by Chase Pfeifer. Working with UNL Engineering students each vehicle was specially modified for its owner.
When it came time for the reveal party, Reagan and the others were all smiles and ready to go.
“There was a lot of emotion because I didn’t know at first whether she was going to like it or understand what this was. And when she knew to press the button and she was smiling at everybody, I knew it was a good choice to be able to have one of these vehicles for her," said Jordan.
Learn more about Madonna's Research Institute and how they're helping patients get back to their life roles.