Sharing the mission of mobility: Bella’s Bumbas went to preschool

21 Nov

I haven’t blogged recently about my friends at Bella’s Bumbas, but rest assured, these fine folks are still doing great things for our community, and in our community.

Bella’s Bumbas is run by Webster residents Marty Parzynski and Rebecca Orr, dedicated to building miniature wheelchairs for children with a wide variety of mobility issues. In the five years since Marty built the first Bella’s Bumba for their niece Bella, they’ve shipped 2,600 chairs to children in 64 countries, often adapting the chairs for each child’s individual needs, and charging the parents only for shipping.

Recently, Marty and Rebecca brought several of their chairs, and their message, to the 3 and 4-year old preschoolers at Webster Christian Reformed Church. The visit had two goals: the first was to introduce the idea to these young children that there are a lot of kids out there who can’t get around as easily as they can.

“Some children can’t use their legs,” Rebecca explained to them, “so they have to have wheels.”

The chairs, she told the preschoolers, allow these children with special needs to still have fun, play with their siblings and friends, go to the spray park, roll around the playground and even along an ocean beach. The Bella’s Bumbas give them the mobility they had never before experienced.

Secondly, Rebecca and Marty hope their message of inclusion will filter down into the preschoolers’ homes, and encourage conversations with their adults.

Rebecca explained,

“One of the biggest ‘hopes’ most special needs parents have for their children is inclusion, for their child to be included in normal child’s play. Most children shy away from a child in a wheelchair or with leg braces. If families teach their children when they’re young about children like our ‘Bumbaleers’ who have different needs, and understand even at a young age how these children aren’t much different and just want to play, it would be a better world for all children.

Rebecca and Marty reinforced their message by letting the children try out the mini Bella’s Bumba wheelchairs for themselves. Not surprisingly, they very quickly got the hang of rolling themselves all around the room, using just their arms to push their wheels. They even saw how “kicking” a ball by nudging it with the wheelchair allowed them to play with their friends.

Bella’s Bumbas, which celebrated its fifth anniversary in March, is an all-volunteer organization, relying on a small but dedicated group to build the chairs and fulfill several other roles like picking up donated bubble wrap from drop boxes around town. They offer four different wheelchair designs, adapted to children’s particular needs. They’ve even developed a pull-behind cart for those children who need to carry an oxygen tank or other appliance with them at all times.

The organization is always looking for donations of bubble wrap and boxes, and of course they greatly appreciate monetary donations. For more information and to find out more about you can help, visit the Bella’s Bumbas website.

Check out these photos of the kids trying out the Bella’s Bumbas and playing ball together. They very quickly learned how easy it is to turn the chair, roll forward and backward, kick a ball back and forth, or pick it up and throw it to their friends. Even without using their legs, they could play just like any other kid.

And that’s what it’s all about.

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(posted 11/21/2022)

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