Empowering Action

Harper Costa doesn’t walk yet.

At 2½, she can army-crawl across a room in no time, but her legs aren’t strong enough to stand. She sits up on her own, but she can topple without added support.

Harper has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, which renders her joints stiff and inhibits her muscle control and balance.

Because young children learn through exploration, her cognitive development also has been delayed, her mom said.

But in November, Harper was unhampered by her CP. She raced around the hallways of Pacific University’s Hillsboro Campus as her 4-year-old sister jogged to keep up.

Harper was among 16 young children with limited mobility who received custom motorized toy cars through a Pacific University Go Baby Go build. The car, which her family received for free through the program, will allow Harper a little more freedom to move, explore and learn like her peers.

And, the process of building that car will give the future occupational therapists and physical therapists working toward their doctorates at Pacific University deeper experience and skill in the fields they hope to practice.

“The best part is giving these kids some form of independent mobility.”

Like so much of what happens at Pacific University, the Go Baby Go build benefits not only today’s students, but also the people they will serve with their education and training.

Go Baby Go started at the University of Delaware, where a physical therapist came up with the idea of hacking toy cars to provide mobility solutions for children. Today, people complete “builds” all over the world using step-by-step instruction guides for adapting specific models, along with their own ingenuity in retrofitting the cars to meet individual needs.

At Pacific, students and faculty from the schools of Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy teamed up with some whizzes from Glencoe High School’s robotics team in Pacific’s first official Go Baby Go build. They spent an afternoon meeting with families and children then customizing cars.

Harper’s car was outfitted with a giant push-button instead of foot-operated pedals. A little arm pressure triggered the accelerator, while a PVC-pipe frame, cushioned with foam pool noodles, helped hold her upright.

Other cars were outfitted with slanted seats, chest harnesses, and even an accelerator button on a headrest for a child with limited use of her arms.

Sandra Rogers, an occupational therapy professor who helped organize the build, said the event gave students exposure to emerging practices, as well as an opportunity to work together interprofessionally.

More, though, students were doing real work that benefited real people as part of their education.

Because of Pacific’s students and programs, which contributed the money for the cars and materials for the build, 16 local children have more independence and mobility, said Crystal Bridges PT ’08, a Pacific alumna and faculty member who also is a leader with the local Go Baby Go Chapter.

“The best part is giving these kids some form of independent mobility.” 

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