More about Bella’s Bumbas

14 Jan

For those of my blog readers who don’t subscribe to the Democrat and Chronicle, I’d like to share with you my Our Towns East Extra story which ran in the paper this morning. It tells about an incredible Webster couple who have dedicated themselves to changing the lives of young children with disabilities all over the world.

It’s kind of a long read, but I think it will warm your heart.


Webster couple’s love for their niece inspired tiny wheelchairs

Today, an update on Bella’s Bumbas, an organization I first wrote about last March. It’s a heart-warming story of a cause that began in Webster, but is now helping children all over the world.

Bella’s Bumbas began by chance a year ago by Webster residents Rebecca Orr and her husband Marty Parzynski.

In 2015, their niece Bella was born with spina bifida, which caused paralysis of her lower limbs. Troubled by Bella’s inability to move around and interact with other children, they did a little research and found a posting on Pinterest about how to make a toddler-sized wheelchair using a commercially-available “Bumbo” infant seat and a child’s bicycle tires. Marty got to work, and before long had built one for his niece. He called it “Bella’s Bumba.”

When word started spreading about what Marty had done and how it had changed Bella’s life, he and Rebecca started getting requests for Bella’s Bumbas from other parents. So they set up a workshop in the garage and started to mass-produce the wheelchairs, using mostly donated parts. They asked families only to cover the shipping costs.

When I first wrote about Bella’s Bumbas, Marty had only built and shipped five of the chairs. But when local and national media outlets started to pick up the story, orders began coming in from all over the country.

Now, almost a year later, Marty and Rebecca have shipped about 250 of the chairs, to 40 states and nine countries, and orders are still coming in at an average of four or five a week.

Along the way, they built a new workshop and developed a lot of shortcuts to help streamline the operation, which helps them keep up with the demand. It only takes about 10 minutes now for Marty to cobble together a wheelchair, compared to the three hours it took for the first Bella’s Bumba.

They’ve also learned a lot about the unique needs of the children they’re serving. Their chairs are now being shipped to children not just with spina bifida, but also those with cerebral palsy, brittle bone disease, microcephaly, Dandy-Walker Syndrome, and about 30 other mobility issues.

Marty has also designed three new chairs specifically adapted to each child’s specific needs, including one with a basket to carry an oxygen tank and other medical devices.

One thing that hasn’t changed is how the Bella’s Bumbas are improving the lives of everyone they touch.

“It’s increased our compassion for children and their needs and families,” Marty said. “Not just for the children, but for the moms and dads who have been going through the disability with the child. This chair has given them such a freedom in their own lives ….It works both ways.”

“It’s just amazing where this has taken us,” he added.

And Bella, the little girl who started it all and whose parents were told she would never walk, is now two and a half years old. She still uses her Bumba to get around quickly, but with her improved upper body strength, she’s graduated to leg braces and a walker.

“She’s thriving,” Rebecca said. “The chair is now for her playtime. She may walk (with) just hand crutches someday.”

* * *

And here’s some  more information I didn’t have time the space to include into the article:

  • A few months ago, Bella’s Bumbas was featured on CBS News. You can see that video here. 
  • Rebecca and Marty have received incredible support from several local businesses, including 1) B&L Wholesale Supply in Rochester, who provides all of the Azack material for the chair bases, free of charge, 2), which has donated $12,000 worth of bicycle tires; and 3) Superior Solutions of Webster, which ships all of the chairs domestically for one, very reasonable, flat rate.  Rebecca also notes that “our Friday volunteer George is essential to helping “Sarge” keep up with the building.”
  • Bella’s Bumbas has shipped chairs to children in China, the Philippines, Czechoslovakia,  Argentina, Sierra Leone, Guatemala,  Greenland, Canada, and the UK. 
  • Becky and Marty’s efforts have inspired a man in Germany to start building the wheelchairs as well, setting up a similar organization he calls Lina’s Rollis. He has taken over several of Bella’s Bumbas European orders, building and shipping them at a much reduced rate.
  • In December, Bella’s Bumbas was honored to present four chairs to Golisano’s Children’s Hospital, donated in memory of Rebecca’s mom, Marilyn Baize Campagna. They were built with funds donated in her memory and will allow her to keep on helping children, something she loved to do.
  • Bella’s Bumbas still builds these chairs at no cost to the families, asking only that the shipping costs be covered. If you’d like to help, they could use cash donations to help purchase parts that have not been donated. To do so, log onto their GoFundMe page, or you can send a check directly to Bella’s Bumbas, 1170 Ridge Road, PMB 208, Webster, NY 14580.
  • They can also use packing materials — especially bubble wrap and pillow packs (not peanuts, please) — so if you regularly get shipments using these, start hoarding them!

I just heard from Becky this morning, who never slows down. She wrote, “I’m packing to ship eight chairs, and we have found transportation for two to go to China, one to go to India and one to Ireland, all by the end of March.”

If all that wasn’t enough to fill your heart, visit the Bella’s Bumba Facebook page, where you can see videos of many of the kids these chairs has helped. So many smiling faces, as these children discover mobility for the very first time in their lives.

* * *

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