Children with disabilities sometimes are unable to manipulate the buttons, handles or levers that make toys light up, speed up or make sounds.
That's why Heather and Edward Bennett helped establish an adaptive toy library at the Easter Seals Central and Southeast Ohio office, 3830 Trueman Court in Hilliard.
The toy library, Katelyn's Kloset, opened on Feb. 22.
Katelyn's Kloset is named for Katelyn, the 16-month-old daughter of the Bennetts who was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which vertebrae are not fully formed.
Last year, the Bennetts, who also have two daughters ages 5 and 4 and live in Hilliard, founded Katelyn's Krusade, a nonprofit organization with the goal of building an indoor recreation center for the families of children with disabilities.
"Our goal is to one day build an indoor recreation center but we also saw a need to make it easier for parents to get adaptive toys for their children," said Heather Bennett, 36.
Bennett said she discovered few opportunities for parents of disabled children to obtain adapted toys. If the toys can be obtained from a retailer, they often cost $50 to $200 more than the standard toy.
Now, the adaptive toy library at Easter Seals Central and Southeast Ohio will have a collection of toys that can be borrowed or purchased at nearly the cost of a standard toy.
"It levels the playing field," Bennett said.
The adaptive toy library includes an array of toys including Chuggington trains, Mickey Mouse dolls, and other trademarked toys at nearly the same cost.
"The toys are about $5 more than at a store to cover the material to adapt the toy," she said.
A 5K run and walk in September, called Krusade for Kids, helped raise the funds needed to open Katelyn's Kloset.
But Katelyn's Kloset still would not have been possible without volunteers who adapted the toys, including student engineers from the Ohio State University and Hilliard Davidson High School.
Clayton Steele, Luke Hoover and Karim Ramadan, Davidson juniors enrolled in an engineering class, donated about 50 hours of work during the past several months adapting remote control vehicles and toys with lights, sounds and moving parts.
Much of the work involves trial and error before the adaptive work can even begin, Steele said.
"We have to take a toy, open it up and then just randomly begin testing wires to find out which one does what kind of function," Steele said.
Then, Steele said, a circuit is built that leads to an alternate oversized button or toggle switch that allows a child with limited dexterity to manipulate the toy.
For instance, a black Corvette, large enough for a 4-year-old child to sit in, has a large blue button on the steering wheel. The button is an alternative accelerator to the one on the floorboard.
Other adaptive toys provide the means to "plug in" a standard remote control into a four-switch panel with oversized levers for left, right, forward and reverse.
These adaptive kits can be manufactured with a 3-D printer and include a wiring diagram, Heather Bennett said.
"It's been a really great experience," Hoover said. "It has allowed me hands-on experience and then we get to see people use them."
Steele said he is involved in several service organizations but feels his work and those of others adapting toys will perhaps have the greatest impact because of the children who will benefit.
The idea for Katelyn's Kloset was derived from the services Katelyn receives at Easter Seals.
"(Heather) had this idea and we thought it was fabulous," said Pandora Shaw-Dupras, CEO of Easter Seals Central and Southeast Ohio. "It is a cost-effective way for kids to get the same kinds of toys."
Children who receive services at Easter Seals are eligible to borrow toys, but any parent with a disabled child is eligible to register, Bennett said.
Katelyn's Kloset will be open from 10 a.m. to noon each Saturday for parents to view, test, purchase, borrow or return toys, but parents may pick up or return reserved toys during business hours, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at Easter Seals Central and Southeast Ohio.
For more information, visit katelynskrusade.org.