TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — The nonprofit Wheelchairs 4 Kids marked the grand opening of its new office space Wednesday.
What You Need To Know
- Wheelchairs 4 Kids celebrated the grand opening of its new, larger office space
- The nonprofit provides free wheelchairs, mobility devices and home modifications to the families of children in need
- Wheelchairs 4 Kids Co-Founder and Executive Director Madeline Robinson said the larger space will allow for the hiring of new employees, who will help the charity serve more families
"We are so excited. We are in our brand new office, and if you had any idea what our old office looked like, this is a palace," said Wheelchairs 4 Kids Co-Founder and Executive Director Madeline Robinson.
Robinson said the larger space at 1200 S. Pinellas Ave. will allow the charity to hire two new program coordinators in the next year. Additional hires are expected within the next five years. Robinson said this means Wheelchairs 4 Kids will be able to help even more families with children in need of wheelchairs, other mobility devices and home modifications.
"It's the dream to help as many as we can, and there is no shortage," Robinson said.
Robinson said she first noticed that need while volunteering with other charities involving children. She said Medicaid and insurance only provide for new wheelchairs every five years.
"They just outgrow their chairs, and then the parents start to MacGuyver them. They take the arms off, and then the wheels are rubbing against the kids," Robinson said.
So in 2011, she co-founded Wheelchairs 4 Kids. Since then, she said they've helped nearly 1,200 families. The latest is the Markillie family. Todd Markillie, 11, was born with a number of conditions his mother, Rene Markillie, said are similar to muscular dystrophy - Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, spinal muscular atrophy and centronuclear myopathy. He walks with the help of braces known as ankle foot orthotics (AFOs).
"It helps him actually stabilize his walking. Without the braces, he tends to trip and fall," Markillie said.
Todd started riding a therapy trike in physical therapy. Markillie said it helps build a core muscle. At the ribbon cutting, Wheelchairs 4 Kids presented Todd with a trike of his own.
"I really like my new trike, and also, now I can go on bike rides with my family," Todd said. "I was super happy because I get to ride a bike - even now without training wheels."
It's a milestone that makes Markillie emotional.
"It's the first time he's ever ridden a bike. He's tried so hard to ride bikes," she said, wiping away tears.
Markillie said her family wouldn't have been able to afford the trike on its own, which Todd's Wheelchairs 4 Kids program coordinator said costs $1,500.
The nonprofit purchases devices and does home modifications with the help of grants, donations and community partnerships.