'It's a rewarding experience': Children with disabilities get toys modified for them by UNC students

Akilah Davis Image
Thursday, December 22, 2022
Children with disabilities gifted toys designed for them
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The students work all year holding bake sales and community benefit nights to make the money to buy the toys.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Students on the campus of UNC Chapel Hill are using their engineering skills to give back in a unique way.

When Santa has a ton of Christmas requests for children in North Carolina who have special needs, he calls on Carolina Adapts Toys For Children. It's a student led organization that doubles as a Santa's workshop to fulfill the wishes.

"We catch the kids who fall through the cracks of mainstream toy design," said Darci Anderson, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering. "So that way a kid in a wheelchair can press a button and the toy will still move on the ground because they can't get on the ground."

On any given day you can find a couple dozen students in the basement of Phillips Hall modifying toys to make them more accessible for children with disabilities. They add large buttons or switches.

"The organization's main founder Michael Weaver has cerebral palsy. As a child, he wasn't able to play with most commercially manufactured toys," said Rohan Krishnan, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering. "I saw this as a way to develop new skills that I saw myself using a lot while having a wider reach or impact."

The students work all year holding bake sales and community benefit nights to make the money to buy the toys.

"It was a really rewarding experience getting to see them interact with the toys we spent an entire semester modifying," said Krishnan.

This year the organization donated 54 modified toys to six local places including elementary schools and centers for developmental disabilities.

"It really validated all that we're doing. It made it feel so important to see the impact this is going to have for their lives," he said. "It just makes the past four years of efforts completely worth it."

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