What do a pink Barbie car and an umbrella have in common?

First of all, don’t skip over this video. It’s not a virus or a prank. It’s not that long, either. It’s one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. A young girl with Spina Bifida gets her own motorized pink Barbie car thanks to folks in her community who took an interest.

Once you’re done watching, keep reading! (the video takes a second to load). Update: the video started on its own any time someone came to my blog so here is the link.

My own pink Barbie car

OK, so I didn’t have any pink Barbie cars. (I had the silver Barbie Corvette as a kid, but only Barbie herself could fit in it. That’s not the point.) What I love about the above story, besides the little girl’s joyous face at her new-found freedom, is that it came from the hands of kind people. It wasn’t a cool mobility device (although those really are cool and pretty innovative). She got this Barbie car because people cared enough to make a difference in the lives of one child.

I have many examples of “Barbie cars” in my life. Times when people I knew and even strangers helped me find a better way to do things or they made something that made my life easier. Sometimes this was adaptive equipment, sometimes it was just something that they made or advice they gave. A few examples stick out in my mind-like the umbrella.

Raindrops falling on my head

When you’re a full-time wheelchair user, you don’t really have free hands to hold an umbrella. Even if you have someone holding an umbrella over you, either your feet or your backpack are likely to get wet. If you’re as independent as I am, it’s almost more frustrating to try and wheel with someone standing that close to you and trying to not hit them with the chair. For those who really know me, you realize that I hate the feeling of being in the way and I always feel that way when someone has to follow me with an umbrella.

During my years at JBU, I had to cross campus from the dorms to classes pretty much every day. Classes obviously don’t get canceled by rain, so I just got wet. That is until junior year (I think) when two friends from the engineering department approached me with an idea. Carlos and Jaime were part of a class that was supposed to develop a prototype of something and present the project to the class. They created a custom-made umbrella holder that was designed specifically for the chair I had at the time. It had a swivel to allow me to control the angle and was fitted with a standard golf umbrella. Golf umbrellas are the giant ones that give the best coverage. I wish I had a photo of this thing (if any of my JBU friends have one, please send it)!

I loved this gift. It was a great project for them and it made a major difference in my life. It meant a lot to me that friends would look at a simple problem like that and come up with a viable solution that allowed me independence but dryness. I quickly became a sight around campus as I would go around with my umbrella. I admit, I would use it even when it wasn’t raining!

I don’t have an umbrella any more because I have a different model of wheelchair. Don’t worry about me, I will probably research getting a different umbrella at some point when the rain bothers me enough to do it! At any rate, I will never forget those years that I was able to be dry and comfortable all because two friends were innovative, skilled … and caring.

I have plenty more stories like this one, but even I have to stop writing at some point. I’m interested to know, do any of you have any proverbial pink Barbie cars in your life?


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