Volunteers were on hand for a special wheelchair wash event at the Children's Rehabilitation Service in Anniston Tuesday. The volunteers cleaned and repaired wheelchairs for area children and adults for free through most of the day. Along with employees from Children's Rehabilitation, members of East Central Alabama United Cerebral Palsy and employees of an area wheelchair vendor, Alabama Wheelchairs, helped with the event.
"We've done events like this before in the past, but this is the first time we've done one since we moved into our new building a year and a half ago," said Randy Whitt, field supervisor for Children's Rehabilitation. "We hope to make this an annual event here."
Children's Rehabilitation, on Coleman Road, is part of a statewide program that provides medical and rehabilitative support for children with special care needs and their families. Along with medical care, the program helps children acquire medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, not covered by their insurance.
Whitt said the group started the wheelchair wash several years ago due to how difficult it is to properly clean a wheelchair.
"They are very difficult to clean unless you have someone to take it apart and clean it piece by piece," Whitt said.
White, bubbly soap dripped onto warm concrete as Holly Edwards scrubbed part of a small orange wheelchair Tuesday. Edwards, a social worker at Children's Rehabilitation for nearly 11 years, has plenty of experience helping children and has loved every minute of it.
"The kids with the smiles on their faces ... the families are thankful for anything you do for them ... it's a very rewarding job," Edwards said.
Nearby the cleaning site, Rusty Kays of Anniston watched as his 10-year-old son Seth Monroe used a big piece of yellow chalk to draw a picture on the sidewalk. The cleaning of Monroe's wheelchair was just the latest help he had received from Children's Rehabilitation. Kays said his son has multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system, and has been a Children's Rehabilitation patient since he was a baby.
"The staff here is fantastic," Kays said. "When he comes here, he feels like he is with family — he doesn't feel like he's seeing a doctor."
Bonnie Johnson, program coordinator for East Central Alabama United Cerebral Palsy, said her organization brought several of its adult patients to the event. Johnson said her organization and Children's Rehabilitation share many patients. However, her organization performs at home visits, she said.
"We go into their homes and provide therapy and train the patients' caregivers in what to do," Johnson said.
Despite being in the hot sun Tuesday, Johnson and her volunteers enjoyed the event and thought it was successful, she said.
"I think there's been a great turnout," Johnson said.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.