Getting kids on the road with Go Baby Go

June 10, 2022

Child takes a ride on a grey toy truck at go baby go event

For almost a decade, Quinnipiac faculty and students put wheels in motion for special needs children through the Go Baby Go initiative.

Go Baby Go is a national program that was created at the University of Delaware by Cole Galloway, the school’s Associate Chair of Physical Therapy. Quinnipiac launched its own chapter in 2012 in a physical therapy capstone group under the guidance of Clinical Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Michelle Broggi, said Linda Bedard, assistant visiting physical therapy professor and director of EQUIP Rehabilitation.

Quinnipiac is one of 40 outreach communities currently participating in Go Baby Go.

The program focuses on adapting kids’ electric cars so those with disabilities can independently drive the toy vehicles. This five-phase process can include rewiring and modifying functionality, as well as installing a five-point harness and a red “go” button for children unable to manually depress a foot pedal, said Bedard.

Kickboards and pool noodles are also often utilized for customization.

“Safety is clearly considered, and the car is modified individually for each client,” said Bedard.

A group of four physical therapy students soup up each car as Broggi provides pediatric expertise during the process.

All the vehicles are donated to the university. Toy giant Mattel recently gave more than 40 cars to the cause, with smaller donations coming from individuals.

Families of special needs children are encouraged to join the Connecticut waitlist for a personalized car. Teachers, doctors and therapists can apply on behalf of clients as well.

Once a child is selected, graduate students in the physical therapy program conduct a telehealth meeting with the individual and their family. During the meeting, students note measurements and the child’s capability to operate the kid-sized cars.

The modifications take place in Quinnipiac’s facilities department on the North Haven campus.

“The facilities personnel help us with power tools and getting materials that we struggle to get. They [often] volunteer their services to meet with student groups, especially if we’re going to do a difficult rewiring,” said Bedard.

They also stand by during the annual fall event when families come for a final fitting and to bring the spiffy new vehicles home. The October 2021 Halloween-themed occasion included crafting a license plate and customizing each car with stickers, as well as a car wash and an obstacle course to help the children learn to drive. Eight cars were distributed during the festivities.

The students who build the vehicles learn about pediatrics-specifically genetic and development conditions-while gaining experience in telemedicine and adapting conditions per a client’s specific needs, said Bedard.

“Getting to plan and put together this event was a very special experience. I loved getting to interact with the families via email, hear all about the telehealth examinations from the students, and then get to see the finished product the day of the event,” said Melyssa Canonico ‘22, the Go Baby Go Student Coordinator for EQUIP Rehabilitation. “The look on each child’s face as they learned how to press the ‘big red button’ for the first time and learn that they could move by themselves was magical.”

Most importantly, receiving families get to take part in a joyous activity previously out of their child’s reach. “This was one of the most beautiful experiences we’ve ever had with our son. We are grateful to have been a part of this program,” said a participating parent.

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