Southern Utah children with disabilities receive customized vehicles as part of physical therapy program

ST. GEORGE — Seven of Eight children with disabilities felt the need for speed on Veteran’s Day as they were chosen as recipients of modified and customized kids’ electrical SUV toy vehicles nearby the O.C. Tanner Fountain at Utah Tech University.

Parents, Disabled kids and Utah Tech students pose together as part of GoBabyGo! program, Utah Tech University, St. George, Utah, Nov. 11, 2022 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News

As part of a national nonprofit movement to help kids who are in long-term physical therapy and lack ways to move around, they are given these customized modes of transportation as a means of physical therapy.

Erin Hurst, a senior at Utah Tech in the physical therapist assistant program, said the outdoor, social interaction with other kids helps them mentally and physically in positive ways.

“We are giving them their first interaction with their environment,” Hurst said.

The parents were stunned into excitement, smiles and even tears for a few fathers as they saw their children able to sit in and ride around in the fully decked-out vehicles with Utah Tech logos and decals. One child could not make it to the revealing of the vehicles but received his SUV and toys later.

“This has been so awesome for Archer,” Kylee Moore of Cedar City said. “Getting a way for him to get around … has been really amazing. We are definitely grateful for this program.”

She said her son, Archer, has heart conditions that have resulted in seizures and disrupted his ability to learn to walk. Moore laughed and smiled with Archer as he rode up and down the lawn and around the fountain with his father directing him.

The cars had individual toys placed on the seats as part of the package. Each toy serves purposes within cognitive and motor skills needs.

One of the program coordinators and part-time faculty for the Utah Tech Physical Therapy program, Burke Jorgensen, explained more about GoBabyGo!

Jorgensen, who worked at the Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital for nine years, heard about the program and brought the idea to Utah Tech when he transferred over.

“We kind of did it at the hospital,” Jorgensen said. “We never had the funding for it to do anything really serious. The university has a community engagement grant, which they want their students out in the community. We put in for the grant and got it the first year.”

The university gave $2,000 for the first year and continued to sponsor the program annually through the community engagement grant, with more finances given each year. The leftover finances are covered by the College of Health Sciences. And these funds are needed to help facilitate the individual needs of the recipients.

“They are serious cars and fully decked out,” Jorgensen said.

Disabled kids in physical therapy received customized SUV vehicles to help them independently move around, Utah Tech University, St. George, Utah, Nov. 11, 2022 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News

Each vehicle is personally customized according to each child’s cognitive and motor needs to help the child operate the vehicles on their own. They also are paired with a remote control for parents to take over the driving if needed. Other added features included a horn, radio and several other features.

One specific vehicle was modified for one recipient who was born with no arms. The pedal was made to fit the child and has a button in it, allowing the child to kick his toe across it, which moves the vehicle forward, physical therapist assistant instructor Nicole Schneider said.

Customization of the vehicles is the result of a collaboration among Utah Tech students in engineering, physical therapist assistant and physical therapy programs.

The GoBabyGo! program was started in 2007 at the University of Delaware by Cole Galloway to provide their vision and goal as outlined by their site: “All people exploring their world via independent mobility!”

When a parent asked how long batteries would last before needing to be recharged, Jorgensen joked in reply.

“Sometimes longer than you want,” he said.

For over an hour, as music and horns sounded in the backdrop, parents watched as their children drove around campus, exploring their environment with newfound independence.


Photo Gallery


Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!