Baby Bella inspires Webster couple to build mini wheelchairs

30 Mar

(This is a re-posting of the East Extra column I wrote for this morning’s Democrat and Chronicle. It’s a nice little story out of Webster.) 

Marty and Bella

Marty Parzynski helps his niece Bella into her brand new Bella’s Bumba chair last July. It took Bella only a week or two to learn how to maneuver it by herself.

Thanks to the efforts of a Webster couple, lots of young children with disabilities are enjoying newfound mobility.

For the last year, Rebecca Orr and her husband, Marty Parzynski, have been building miniature “Bella’s Bumba” wheelchairs for children throughout the country who suffer from spina bifida, a congenital defect in which part of the spinal cord is exposed through a gap in the backbone. The condition commonly causes paralysis of the lower limbs.

Their passion to help was sparked when their niece Bella was born in July 2015. When she and her siblings came for a visit last summer from their Buffalo home, Rebecca and Marty were troubled by Bella’s inability to move around and interact with other children.

“We were having to pick her up and put her around the yard so she could be with other kids,” Rebecca said. They would even have to turn and face her toward anyone talking to her.

“She was captured in her body,” Marty added.

For children as young as Bella, mobility options are limited. Insurance doesn’t pay for wheelchairs for children younger than 4 because they outgrow them so fast. Commercial versions of the Bumba chair, called a ZipZac, can cost more than $1,000. That’s a huge burden for families already dealing with significant medical bills.

Then Rebecca and Marty saw a pin on Pinterest showing how to make their own, and Marty got to work. Using a commercially available “Bumbo” infant seat, two 12-inch tires from a child’s bicycle and some spare parts, in no time he had built the very first “Bella’s Bumba.”

It took a few weeks for Bella to get the hang of it, but before long, the child was using her miniature wheelchair to navigate around their home or a playground safely all by herself, grinning from ear to ear the whole time. She was finally mobile.

“The chair made a huge difference in her life,” Bella’s father, Jeffrey Shorr, said. “Having the chair allowed us to take her outside, and she could interact with others rather than our holding her or sitting her in a chair.”

Once Marty and Rebecca saw the difference the chair made in their niece’s life, they started sharing Bella’s successes through their personal Facebook page, and then on a spina bifida parents group page.

“You see those families, how they’re struggling … looking for used items for their children to gain mobility,” Rebecca said. “They’re stuck in strollers (and) they’re stuck wherever you sit them. … I thought, ‘I want to get this away from our personal page and get it onto its own page.’”

Rebecca and Bella

Just a week after getting her new Bella’s Bumba in July 2016, one-year old Bella Shorr tries it out at a spray park in Webster, with help from her aunt Rebecca Orr.

They set up a Bella’s Bumbas Facebook page, and word started to spread. So far they’ve made and shipped five of the specialty chairs all around the country, and have pending orders for 22 more.

Their efforts are changing lives of young children, and their parents, in countless ways. Helping a non-mobile child become mobile is just the beginning.

Now that she has her Bella’s Bumba chair, Jeff said that his daughter is much happier in general. But her coordination and upper body strength have also improved significantly, which helped her learn to crawl and, very soon, use a walker.

Basically, her Bella’s Bumba has “brought progress to something that seemed like progress would never happen,” Jeff said.

“She’s one of the kids now,” Rebecca added.

For more information, to donate or to request your own Bella’s Bumba, connect with Bella’s Bumbas on Facebook or email bellasbumbas@gmail.com.

* * *

If you like this story and want to read more positive news from our east-side towns, “like” my Our Towns East Extra Facebook page.

email me  at missyblog@gmail.com .“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram

 

One Response to “Baby Bella inspires Webster couple to build mini wheelchairs”

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  1. Baby Bella inspires Webster couple to build mini wheelchairs – WNY Pages - March 30, 2017

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