CATS blesses Wheels4Kids-kid

Pam Dudding-Burch
Contributing writer

Clayton Cassell is excited as he was promised a conversion Power Wheels at Wheels4Kids Summerfest, from CATS. Here is Clayton (far right) with his two brothers, Ethan and Dalton, and his mom, Emily Cassell.

Most kids love to jump into a Power Wheels, put their hands on the steering wheel and press the foot pedal to the max. However, there are still children, who do not have that luxury of having all of their limbs to function normally.

Cathy Cummins, a representative of CATS (Children’s Assistive Technology Service), attended the Wheels4Kids Summerfest Car Show and Power Wheels Show on Saturday, July 8. She shared with many the concept of CATS. “We are able to convert Power Wheels for children with disabilities or loss of limbs,” she said.

Emily Cassell, who lives in Craig County, found out 21 weeks into her pregnancy, that her child was going to be born with partial limbs. With faith, she chose to bring him into the world. Clayton is now seven-years-old.

When asked how he has adapted, Cassell shared that he is a very independent child. “He has taught himself,” she said. “He learned how to use his feet and toes to manage whatever he needed.”

When Rick Dudding planned the Wheels4Kids Car Show, he decided to have a Power Wheels Car contest for the kids as well. He met Cummins at another car show event and called her to see if she would like to attend.

“I was very excited to hear about this event!” Cummins shared. Then Dudding shared with her that there was a little boy in town without limbs from his elbows down. That seemed to get Cummins adrenaline flowing.

Clayton continues to prove his independence as he went fishing in June at his church’s “Camping for Christ” event.

When Cummins met Clayton at the show, she surprised him and Dudding, by telling him that she was going to get him a car designed just for him. His face seemed to glow. “That is so nice of her,” his mother shared. “She said she would email me and it is all set!”

Cummins checked Clayton’s physical strength in his arm nub. looked at him and assured him that she would be able to convert a car just for him.

However, she quickly shared with Clayton that since he had two other brothers, he could share it with them and teach them how to drive it as well. That seemed to make Clayton happy. It appeared to make his mother very happy also. “I’m so excited!” he exclaimed.

The flyers that Cummins handed out to people who were interested included specific information. The term “assistive technology” (AT), refers to the entire range of rehabilitative and adaptive equipment and devices which allows people with disabilities to perform activities with greater independence, and to succeed at tasks they might otherwise be unable to accomplish.

Some examples include a walker to help a child walk; a bath seat to help them bathe, an accessibility switch to help them operate a toy or a communication device to help them be understood.

“AT allows a child with disabilities to play with friends and siblings, to have more opportunities for learning,” Cummins shared. “It also helps them to be more independent and all of these can make the child happier and the family healthier.”

Many families cannot afford these luxuries. CATS was formed to help solve these problems in the Roanoke River Valley area. “While we realized there was a great need, we also saw that there is an abundance of equipment available,” Cummins shared. Children grow up fast therefore there tends to be adaptive equipment that become unused or unwanted.

CATS acts as a middleman to help both sides. Their equipment is ready to be given away and stored in clean, climate-controlled facilities in Rocky Mount, Virginia and Norfolk, Virginia.

They also have volunteer therapists who are familiar with the equipment who assist with selections and a perfect fit for each child.

Dudding presented Cummins with a special trophy and a heartfelt thank you for helping kids. “I can’t thank you enough for what you are going to do for one of our kids here in Craig,” he said as he choked up a little. “That is very special!

Clayton’s mom shared that he will truly enjoy the converted car as it will add to the things he can do. “He has done it all on his own so far!” she said. “He is so amazing.”

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