The gift of opportunity: Roanoke boy gets adaptive equipment from local charity

Four-year-old River has Cerebral Palsy, and his adaptive equipment from C.A.T.S. helps him do the things he loves

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River (Credit: Paige Crouch)

ROANOKE, Va. – River is just as sweet and spunky as any other kid – he just has some awesome adaptive equipment to help him live his best life.

Four-year-old River was born three-and-a-half months early, weighing one pound. As a result of being born prematurely, he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at nine months old, which affects his mobility.

A lot of River’s schedule revolves around physical therapy, and his mom, Paige, said that River loves to go to school and be around other kids.

Paige explained that having adaptive equipment improves River’s quality of life.

“All of the equipment just helps River be included in the world,” Paige said.

River and Paige enjoying the outdoors (Credit: Paige Crouch) (WSLS)

River’s gait trainer allows him to walk around and go to places like the park and the mall, his stander helps him to stand upright so his hips can become stronger, he has a special chair for eating, and of course, his wheelchair to move around a bit easier.

But sometimes, the need for that equipment comes sooner than insurance can provide it. For Paige and River, getting a gait trainer peak-COVID was a challenge, and at such a crucial development stage, getting it quickly was a necessity.

“He would not be able to walk at all if it wasn’t for us getting that gait trainer,” Paige said.

River in his gait trainer from C.A.T.S. (Credit: Paige Crouch) (WSLS)

Luckily, they got River’s gait trainer from another mom in the community, who told them about where she got it: C.A.T.S.

C.A.T.S., short for Children’s Assistive Technology Services, is a nonprofit organization that helps children with physical, neurological, and developmental disabilities that affect movement, behavior, or communication. C.A.T.S. has four locations in Virginia: Roanoke, Marion, Richmond, and Hampton Roads.

By providing families and caregivers with refurbished adaptive and mobility equipment, educating pediatric clinicians, teachers, and caregivers, and promoting responsive and responsible public health policies, C.A.T.S. helps those children to have better health outcomes, participate more fully in school, engage socially, and achieve greater independence.

In doing so, kids like River can get the equipment they need in a timely manner if it’s available.

Paige explained that insurance can take months to approve or deny your request.

“If you go through insurance, it could take five to six months before they will even get it – if it’s approved,” Paige said. “With C.A.T.S., I can go down the road and pick it up if it’s available.”

Not only that, but getting the equipment that is crucial to the child’s development can be costly, especially if insurance doesn’t pitch in.

“About half of the things that River needs, insurance did not cover,” Paige explained. “Every piece of equipment we have is thousands and thousands of dollars. If insurance doesn’t cover it, most families don’t have that money to pay out of pocket, and we get it for free from C.A.T.S.”

So getting the equipment doesn’t just help the child, it helps take the burden of waiting on insurance off of the family’s shoulders.

John Naples, operations manager at C.A.T.S., broke down what they need from a family that requests equipment.

“The only thing that we would want to know is that you actually do need the equipment,” John said.

John went on to explain that with a doctor or therapist referral, the organization can work with families in need to give them the equipment, or help them to connect with someone that might – and it’s all for free.

All negative, worrisome aspects aside, John said that it’s not just the money part that he loves about C.A.T.S. – it’s the way they can help families in need.

“Seeing a family come in, and get a piece of equipment that they’ve been fighting to get for a year, then eventually got denied, and when the child needs the piece of equipment to develop ... When you see those parents tearing up when they finally get the piece of equipment, that’s what makes it all worthwhile,” John said.

John added that something the kids like River love is their yearly event, Hallowheels, which is right around the corner. To learn more and get involved with Hallowheels, you can visit C.A.T.S.’ website.

River in his 2021 Hallowheels costume (Credit: Paige Crouch) (WSLS)

For more information on how to volunteer, donate, or learn more about C.A.T.S., visit their website here.

C.A.T.S. is also our October 2022 3 Degree Recipient that banks on Your Local Weather Authority team. If our forecast temperature for that day is within 3 degrees of the actual temperature, we’ll give C.A.T.S. $10 for that day. If we hit the temperature on the bullseye for that day, we’ll give C.A.T.S. $100. To learn more about the program or to have your organization apply to be a recipient, go to this webpage.

About the Author:

Alli Graham came aboard the digital team as an evening digital content producer in June 2022.