We all know how important play is for childhood development, and, few things are as magical as watching a child’s face light up when exploring a favorite toy.
For special needs children, however, toys designed for neuro-typical and physically-typical kids, often fail to meet their fundamental need for play.
The Gerlach family wants to make the world a more inclusive one for all children. Children, like their son Benjamin, who was born at only 25 weeks old on June 30, 2012. Along with his brother Colin and sister Ava, Ben spent 4-5 months in the NICU.
Once discharged, Ben’s challenges would continue. He relied on a feeding tube, had limited motor ability, visual impairment and was nonverbal. The Gerlachs knew he would have a tough road ahead of him.
Four years later, Ben passed away of respiratory failure on May 2, 2016. Though his life was brief, and often difficult, the Gerlachs were blessed with a happy, thriving child, thanks to the support of friends, family, doctors, therapists and more, who helped him live his best life.
The Gerlachs wanted to honor their sons memory, and honor those heroes who helped him along the way. To do so, they launched the Ben Smiles Memorial Foundation to bring adaptive toys to deserving children and to help spread acceptance of kids with all abilities.
Though special equipment, adapted toys and other tools designed for kids with various challenges are available, they are often hard to find or too costly for families. Through Ben’s Toy Closet, families can request special toys for their children.
Children like Precious, who was the first child to receive a toy from Ben’s Toy Closet.
Precious, who was 7 years old at the time, was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy and epilepsy. She is also nonverbal and has limited ability to grasp and play with toys.
Ben’s Toy Closet came through and gave Precious a Dance & Move Beat Bow that had been adapted to work with an activation switch. By lightly touching the switch, Precious could turn on the Beat Bow and make it light up, dance and play music.
Elizabeth Gerlach recalls meeting Precious during one of her therapy sessions and watching the joy this new toy brought. Though it took Precious some time to feel comfortable using the switch, she was encouraged all the way, and was soon activating her toy all on her own.
The Gerlachs hope more children, like Precious, can find the joy in toys made just for them. To support their mission, click here.
Thank you to Elizabeth Gerlach who provided the information for this post, which is part of the Blogging for Better campaign to raise awareness for wonderful people and foundations helping to make our world better.