Employees of Axalta Coating Systems and GoBabyGo!, a discovery program at the University of Delaware, recently presented six families with customized toy cars that address the specific needs of toddlers with disabilities that include cerebral palsy (CP).
Employees had the opportunity to meet with each child and his or her family to identify vehicle customization needs, and were also able to follow the children as they tried on their new toys.
“We are honored to take part in such a heartwarming experience that is rewarding for our employees as well as the families involved,” Michael Bollan, North America business director for Axalta, said in a press release. “Working with the GoBabyGo! organization provides an opportunity for our team to use their science and technology skills in a creative way, while helping families from our own community.”
GoBabyGo! was created at the University of Delaware by Dr. Cole Galloway, a physical therapy professor and infant behavior expert, in collaboration with Sunil Agrawal, a professor of mechanical engineering at the university.
Galloway first started his infant behavior lab to study how children learn to move their bodies — he was particularly interested in studying what he calls “an exploration gap,” or the difference between typically developing children and those with from mobility issues due to conditions like CP, spina bifida, or Down syndrome.
The two researchers joined forces in 2007 and started building mobility robots to help disabled children explore their surroundings with greater confidence and independence.
GoBabyGo! is a now national program created to connect local clinics across the U.S. — who have children with special needs under their care — with sponsors like Axalta that can help these children get a custom GoBabyGo! car. Axalta specializes in the development, manufacture and sale of performance and transportation coatings for light and commercial vehicles.
Its employees helped decorate each vehicle to match each child, and helped the children with test drives and then adjusted the vehicles for fit and comfort. Retrofitted cars promote autonomy and independence and are thought to help develop cognitive, social, motor, and language skills.
“The same joy and excitement experienced by every dancer or musician, astronaut or athlete can be seen in newly mobile children,” Galloway said. “Fun is key here — it unlocks brain development and exploratory drive for the child, and it ignites active, engaged play from adults and peers.”