ARLINGTON, Va. (CBS) – Battery-operated cars are always popular presents for kids around this time of year. But for some children, they’re not just toys — the cars are changing their lives.
Ryan Philio is going on six.
“He wakes up everyday and does things he’s not supposed to be able to do,” said Ryan’s mother, Paula.
Ryan has a genetic disorder known as PCH1. It prevents the brain and muscles from developing properly.
He can’t speak and he can barely move his body.
The national non-profit program “Go Baby Go” modifies battery-operated cars for children who have disabilities.
Professor Skye Donovon leads a chapter of the non-profit at Marymount University in Virginia. She explained how the cars help improve a child’s mobility.
“This is what we call an ability button. It’s really touch sensitive. We can put this button anywhere to make it easier for the child to move or we can use it as therapy,” Donovan said.
Ryan has a car that was custom built for him.
“We added a couple different modifications to support his body, support his trunk and help support his head a little bit,” said a Go Baby Go volunteer.
In Ryan’s case, the car helps him sit up straight to develop core muscles and use his hands, but his mom said that’s not the best part.
“In the evenings where everyone is playing, all the kids are out, he gets to take his car out and he gets to be like everybody else,” Paula said.
Ryan’s life is not easy — it’s filled with physical therapy sessions and doctor appointments.
But when he’s behind the wheel, “He just gets to be a little boy,” Paula said.
The Go Baby Go lab is based in the department of physical therapy at the University of Delaware, but volunteer groups across the country can organize and host sessions to build new cars. The University of Delaware’s website offers information on how to start a branch.