After assuming her new role in August as the orthopedic impairment specialist for the San Benito County Office of Education, Megan Ward recognized a glaring problem: the special needs children among her caseload lacked in their homes the adaptable and often expensive toys populating their now-empty classrooms. Determined to solve the issue, the Hollister native and longtime resident turned to YouTube and began organizing a countywide toy drive.
Beginning Nov. 9 and running through Nov. 20, the office of education in partnership with the Early Childhood Special Education Program is sponsoring the county’s first-ever holiday toy drive. Donated toys can be left at three no-contact drop boxes in Hollister, and from there will be adapted and distributed in December to area children with physical disabilities.
Toys can be dropped off Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the San Benito County Office of Education at 460 Fifth Street in Hollister; the Early Childhood Special Education office at 1011 Line Street, Ste. 12, in Hollister; and Ladd Lane Elementary School at 161 Ladd Lane in Hollister.
The common plush toy that speaks, sings, or dances when a child squeezes its hand is difficult if not impossible to activate for those whose impairments prevent such dexterity. To make these toys more accessible, manufacturers often add a series of switches or a large button, increasing child interaction but driving up the price on an otherwise relatively inexpensive toy.
“Adapted toys generally cost between $75 and $100 dollars. The same toy without an adaptation costs between $10 and $40,” said Ward.
From watching YouTube videos, Ward learned how to surgically remove a toy’s components, solder its wiring to an adaptable button, and return it to its original form, save for a small incision marking its transformation.
Ward said it’s important that children with orthopedic impairments have access to these toys.
“They give children a sense of control and independence, as well as an opportunity to participate in the same activities as their peers.”
Ward hopes the toy drive alleviates the financial burden that parents face during the holiday season, which is now worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s going to be easier for families to give the gift they want this year, especially during these challenging times,” Ward said.
For those who would like to donate, Ward has created a website that includes a list of toys that are most adaptable and where they can be purchased, including the Hollister Target. Parents may also contact Ward directly to adapt a toy they have already purchased for their child.
For more information, contact Megan Ward at (831) 630-2525, ext. 522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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