The power of social media: Facebook fundraiser helped Central Rivers AEA occupational therapist provide adaptive backpacks for her students


Kandy with backpacks

 

What started as a social media post turned into so much more for Central Rivers AEA (CRAEA) Occupational Therapist, Kandy Wittry. “One day I shared an adaptive backpack for children in wheelchairs ad from Target, saying how I would love to buy these for each of my kiddos,” said Wittry. “I was thinking nothing would come of it, but so many of my Facebook friends replied how great of an idea this was.” Multiple comments and messages flooded in her inbox with people asking to donate.

“I decided to set up an official fundraiser on Facebook because of how many people were serious about helping.” She thought a $200 limit was plenty for a goal, but within one day, had over $700 of donations that kept growing. “I was flabbergasted by the outpouring of support – Facebook friends, coworkers, old classmates and even former professors reached out – everyone wanted to help!” She told her coworkers at school how this had blossomed into something bigger than expected and needed help. Wittry and her fellow occupational therapists and teachers created a list of students that could benefit from such a backpack.

Wittry ended up raising $1,400 for about 50 of these adaptive backpacks. Accessibility and equal access have always been a passion of hers due to personal experiences. “When I was two, I had a stroke. I was fortunate to recover enough to not need a wheelchair, but I’ve always struggled with accessibility things.” From doing things in adaptive ways, one-handed, she learned the importance of equal access. The backpacks go on the back of a wheelchair, and there are larger zipper pulls, special hooks for the handles, extra pockets (for children on feeding tubes), small holes to feed tubes through the backpack – everything was contained to one spot. “These backpacks make my students feel like they’re a part of the community and make their lives easier.”

Wittry hopes that the success of this simple act can bring awareness to accessibility and promote equal access in her community. The idea is for the backpacks to last students for a few school years, but there are always new students and new situations coming in. At this point, she doesn’t see this becoming an annual fundraising event unless people express interest. “I just wanted to feel like I made a difference. This was one way to achieve that.”

For more information about the success of the fundraiser or if you want to donate to benefit other students, contact Kandace Wittry, CRAEA Occupational Therapist at kwittry@centralriversaea.org.