A program that began with just five pieces of specialty mobility equipment in 1997 will mark its 16th anniversary of serving those within Jasper County with an open house this week.
Kid Assist of Jasper County, an equipment loan program which provides mobility and leisure equipment free of charge to children and adults with disabilities in Jasper County, will host an open house on Wednesday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the program’s new offices at First United Presbyterian Church’s Friendship House, located at 213 N. Third Ave. E.
Kid Assist’s purpose is to “enhance the quality of life of children, youth, and adults with disabilities in Jasper County by loaning leisure, recreation, and other adapted equipment they might not otherwise be able to obtain, in order to learn independent skills and increase their self sufficiency,” according to a press release from the organization. This equipment includes everyday objects like wheelchairs and walkers as well as leisure equipment such as bicycles.
Director of Kid Assist Linda Anderson helped organize the program in Jasper County in 1997 after witnessing success with a similar program in Marion County.
“It all started with five donated items — it’s a funny story, actually,” Anderson said. “I walked in to check out the library, and there was this little adaptive bike that someone had donated for kids to use. That bike eventually became part of our program, and it’s still in use today.”
Anderson explained that, despite its small beginnings, Kid Assist quickly grew to the size it is today, serving 157 clients throughout the county — due, in part, to the nature of its clients and their quickly-growing bodies.
Oftentimes, children will outgrow equipment covered by insurance or Medicaid, rendering it essentially useless. Kid Assist, Anderson explained, remedies this by allowing families to trade in used and outgrown walkers and wheelchairs for equipment that better suits the needs of the growing child.
“Generally, insurance will pay for the equipment, but children grow out of it so quickly, so being able to reuse that equipment is great,” Anderson said. “When people donate things we make sure the equipment is safe, recondition it if necessary, and then re-loan it.”
The program provides equipment beyond typical mobility needs, as well — Kid Assist has a variety of therapeutic toys and toileting and bathing equipment. By providing these items at no cost, the organization serves as a resource for caregivers and those with disabilities alike.
Additionally, Kid Assist advocates for accessibility options at local public areas around the county, including swimming pools, bowling alleys, playgrounds, parks and bike paths. In fact, Anderson explained, this summer will mark a new option for those wishing to swim at Maytag Pool who may not have previously been able to.
“We have as many donated items as we have purchased items,” she explained. “We recently purchased a shower chair for Maytag Park for use in the shower, and it can even go right in the pool.”
As the program celebrates 16 years of serving those in Jasper County, Anderson explained the goal of Kid Assist’s open house is two-fold.
“We really want to get the word out there about this program,” Anderson added. “It’s all volunteer, no one gets paid and we’re the smallest organization (in the county) to receive money from the United Way. We want to use this open house to celebrate, but also to make sure that there’s no one out there that doesn’t know about us.”
Kid Assist is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is funded heavily through United Way of Jasper County. All donations to Kid Assist stay within the community, working to benefit local clients. For more information about Kid Assist, contact Anderson at (641) 792-5220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff writer Nicole Wiegand may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 422, or at email@example.com.