NEW BRITAIN - A donation of over 300 toy cars from Fisher-Price arrived at One Hartford Square Thursday morning for the Go Baby Go! program.
The program involves altering electric ride-on cars so they can be used by children with mobility issues.
They’re “like electric wheelchairs, but cooler,” explained Michele Dischino, professor of technology and engineering education at Central Connecticut State University.
Dischino helped bring the program to CCSU in 2015 after hearing about the campaign, which began at the University of Delaware. Since then, Dischino and her students have worked with school districts around the state to customize 138 cars.
New Britain Superintendent of Schools Nancy Sarra said she saw the potential of this program right away.
“With this, we are partnering with the community while providing a hands-on opportunity for our students,” Sarra said.
CCSU President Zulma Toro also recognizes the unique opportunity it provides for her students.
“I believe our students learn by doing, and I believe Central must continue to try to serve the community,” Toro said.
The Go Baby Go! program has grown to be a statewide collaborative effort with a bright future, but that wasn’t always the case.
“It started in a very small scale,” Toro said. “Just a way to get students involved, hands on.”
That was until Fisher-Price got involved.
“They were very supportive of the idea,” Dischino said. “I was afraid they might be upset that we were breaking some sort of policy.”
In April, Dischino and several CCSU students were brought to Fisher-Price headquarters in East Aurora, N.Y., where they and Fisher-Price employees built some of the altered battery-powered cars. At the wrap-up breakfast the next morning, Fisher-Price offered to donate some cars to the cause, Dischino said.
“We didn’t know how many at the time, but we were excited,” Dischino said. “The biggest cost for this project is the car. Normally, we would have to buy the cars, but not anymore.”
The donation turned out to be a semi-truck load of over 300 unassembled, battery-powered toy cars.
That created some logistical issues.
Mayor Erin Stewart was at the delivery on Thursday, where she recounted her mixture of excitement and panic when she first heard about the donation. “Where do we have space to store over 300 toy cars?” Stewart said.
Stewart posted a plea for assistance on Facebook. “I got a bunch of responses immediately,” she said.
One of those responses was from Peter Niro Jr., the owner of the facility at One Hartford Square, where 25,000 square feet of space is designated for charities and nonprofits, so there was plenty of room for the delivery.
“Peter is great,” Stewart said before giving him a hug and thanking him. “He has a great relationship with the town.”
“We’re just doing our part,” Niro said.
If you know a child up to 5 years old who might benefit from an adapted car at no cost, there is an interest form at bit.ly/GoBabyInterestCCSU.
For more information on how you can help, contact Dischino at firstname.lastname@example.org.