Knoxville Breaking News, Weather, Traffic, Sports | WBIR.com

Modified toys make Christmas special for kids with disabilities

Spark will distribute the adapted toys at the Toy Tech Holiday Party December 12 at the Knoxville Museum of Art

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Volunteers will make Christmas better for children with disabilities. 

The elves will work their magic to modify toys for children with disabilities. 

Spark will distribute the adapted toys at the Toy Tech Holiday Party December 12 at the Knoxville Museum of Art.

SPARK used to be called ETTAC. 

All year long, Spark provides independence through technology for people with disabilities. 

"Our mission is to get technology in their hands so they can function in society just like the rest of us," Libby Beidelschies said.

The Toy Tech effort to adapt toys fulfills that mission.

"It gives children access to toys that may not be able to physically access those toys," she said. 

Credit: WBIR
This doll gets new mechanical innards to facilitate interaction

Jedidiah Cuttle is the Spark Lead Innovator. He modifies typical toys to allow children with disabilities to interact with them. And he shows volunteers how to do it, too. 

Credit: WBIR
Jedidiah Cuttle adapts an Elmo doll

Take it apart, tweak some mechanics, and add a single switch. Then a child who cannot grip or grasp can still interact with the toy.

Children can trigger the switch with their head or their arm or even by blowing into a special device. 

Credit: WBIR
Buttons and joy sticks and even special blowing devices allow children to interact with toys

"It's all the fun of getting to work with something with your hands that's a simple, discreet process. You can see it through start to finish. That is sort of  inherently delightful to start something and complete it. But then on top of that knowing that it is going to a child that otherwise wouldn't be able to play with a to play with a toy like that redoubles that sense of satisfaction," he said. 

The modified toys will come to life next week when Spark hosts the Toy Tech Holiday Party. It's a holiday party where children will select a special toy. 

"They're able to hit a switch and a toy starts and their faces light up which is a really fun thing to watch," Libby said. 

Credit: WBIR
Libby Beidelschies says not only children but also parents appreciate the modified toys

At this point in the season, the best way to help Spark Toy Tech is with a financial donation to buy parts. 


RELATED: ETTAC celebrates 25th anniversary