On Saturday, April 24, 22 children received ride-on cars that were adapted to compensate for various mobility needs courtesy of the Magic of Michael Foundation and dozens of passionate volunteers.
The event, called Go Baby Go Youngstown, is in its 6th year of modifying ride-on cars for mobility-impaired children in the community.
Prior to the event, students from the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center (MCCTC) began their work on the project. STEM students used their graphic arts expertise to design custom license plates for each car based on the child’s favorite colors, characters, and other interests. Engineering students from the MCCTC began setting up the cars, purchased by the Magic of Michael Foundation, the day before the event.
Early the morning of the event, dozens of volunteers began wiring and then assembling the cars prior to the children’s arrival. Volunteers modified the cars so that a hand switch instead of the traditional foot pedal is used to operate the car. Seating support was added based on each child’s individual needs so that they can independently sit and drive their new set of wheels. Each jeep also comes with a remote control for the parents to help as their child is learning to drive.
“I appreciate the generosity of the sponsors very much,” said Dave Osborn, a local electrical engineer, as he navigated through the process of wiring a black ride-on car. “I come back to give back,” he said, explaining that his granddaughter Riley received a car through the last Go Baby Go Youngstown event, adding, “She loves her car.”
After the cars were wired, they were assembled. Those assembling the cars included MCCTC Engineering and Robotics instructor, Walter Baber, and several MCCTC students, representing both the engineering and STEM programs. Other volunteers assembling the cars included Physical Therapists (PTs) and Occupational Therapists (OTs) even participated in assembling the cars, including Jasc Romeo, a PT from Akron Children’s Hospital and Amanda Frank, an OT from Rainbow Babies.
As the children arrived at the MCCTC, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and team members from Miller’s Rehab worked together to add a seat customized to each child to provide a safe and comfortable ride in their new cars. After getting fitted, the kids got to take their wheels for a test drive, showing the kids and parents how to utilize the features of the new car.
“I was scared at first she wasn’t going to like it,” says Shelby, mother of Nevaeh, a recipient of a pink car. But after seeing the toddler in her car, she said, “I’m glad she loves it!”
The volunteers for the event came from many different backgrounds and organizations. Electricians included individuals from Becdel controls and other local electricians and engineers. Therapists from the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio (ESCEO), Leonard Kirtz School MCBDD, Early Intervention, Fairhaven School, Akron Children’s Hospital, and Rainbow Babies completed seating checks for the children. The seating team included individuals from Miller’s, a Northeast Ohio home medical equipment company.
Children were recommended by therapists to Go Baby Go Youngstown to receive cars at no cost to the child’s family or caregivers. The cars and adaptive equipment were provided through the support of the Magic of Michael Foundation, a local organization founded by the Hirschbeck family dedicated to supporting families by providing resources as they navigate the ‘curveballs’ of life in honor of Michael Hirschbeck.
“When you see the children getting in the car and feeling that motion, and seeing their parents and grandparents … the smiles on the kids faces says it all,” said John Hirschbeck, Michael Hirschbeck’s father. “It’s rewarding to be a part of this.”
“It gives them mobility,” says Bev Lankitus, a Physical Therapist who established the Go Baby Go Youngstown event in 2016 after learning about the program which started at the University of Delaware. “It gives them a way to explore and play.” After hearing about the event, Lankitus attended events at Cleveland State University to learn about the process and the community responded to the need for volunteers and funding. The event has been held at the MCCTC for the past six years. The Magic of Michael Foundation has sponsored Go Baby Go Youngstown for four years.
With the 22 cars built on Saturday, Go Baby Go Youngstown has provided 87 adapted ride-on cars to area children since 2016.
Dave Osborn volunteered his Saturday morning to wire cars for Go Baby Go Youngstown.
Dominic Pratt and James Groom print the custom license plates for the Go Baby Go cars.
MCCTC STEM students show off their graphic design skills with completed license plates for the Go Baby Go cars. Left to Right: James Groom- West Branch, Aiden Ripple- Austintown, Shelbi Heid- Poland, Dillon Shipley- West Branch, Dominic Pratt- Poland
Shelby Heid works on a license plate design for Go Baby Go.
MCCTC Engineering students Shawn Georgiadis (junior) and Cole Norris (senior) assemble cars.
Scott Hays from Miller’s affixes the push button control on Neveah’s car.
Nevaeh takes her new wheels for a spin under the watchful eye of her father, Michael, who can control the car with a remote.
Brennan Baber, MCCTC STEM student adds a seat to one of the 22 ride-on cars provided at Go Baby Go Youngstown on Saturday.
L to R Erin Hirschbeck, Charlie Mauch, Ashley Perry, John Hirschbeck and Denise Hirscheck with Charlie’s new car, provided by the Magic of Michael Foundation.
The Miller’s team and coordinators at this year’s Go Baby Go Youngstown event. L to R: Scott Hayes, Adam Engstrom, Bev Lankitus, Theresa Kinsley, Larry Dye, Shawn McCarthy
Six therapists from the ESC of Eastern Ohio volunteered their time to make Saturday’s event a success. L to R: Kathy O'Shaughnessy, Diane Kluchar, Dawn Marzano, Carolyn Wyand, Bev Lankitus, Stephanie Taranto.