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Five-year-old Christian Farley of Chesapeake enjoys beach time with his family, thanks to an adaptive beach stroller he received from CATS.

CHKD Collaborates with CATS to Help Kids with Disabilities

By Elizabeth Earley, CHKD Staff Writer

Macie Leiphart, a 7-year-old Virginia Beach girl with cerebral palsy, has most of her medical equipment covered by insurance.

But when her family filed for insurance to cover a special device that helps her stand up, the company said it wasn’t medically necessary. The $3,000 cost was steep, especially since she can outgrow the device fairly quickly.

Thankfully, her family found an organization that would help, Children’s Assistive Technology Service (CATS), an organization that refurbishes adaptive devices and other medical equipment for children with disabilities. Sometimes the child’s family doesn’t have insurance, or, more commonly, the insurance companies don’t consider the device medically necessary. Some can cost thousands of dollars, so CATS cleans and refurbishes gently used devices and either gives or loans them to children for free.

CHKD has supported CATS since it started operating in Hampton Roads in 2016. The hospital system recently entered an agreement with the organization, which also has locations in Roanoke and Richmond, to create a partnership in which CHKD picks up equipment for CATS in Hampton Roads, and provides space in CHKD’s adaptive seating clinic for the devices to be cleaned and refurbished.

Whether it’s a device that helps children communicate with friends, or a stroller that makes it easier to play with family on the beach, adaptive devices help children with disabilities live life to the fullest.

Beth Beach, an occupational therapist at CHKD, helped start the CATS operation in Hampton Roads. “Technology has come such a long way in designing equipment that can help children with disabilities do so many more activities, but they can be expensive,” says Beach, who has been an occupational therapist for more than 30 years.

Macie has received two standers from the organization, the first when she was 3 years old, and another one last year when she outgrew the first one. Her mother, Laura Leiphart, says the stander helps her stand at the counter to do arts and crafts, dye Easter eggs, and help her mom cook. “It really expanded the different activities she can do,” Laura says. “She also uses it at school, so she can stand up in class like the other kids.”

Chesapeake 5-year-old Christian Farley also had his horizons expanded by CATS. Christian has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and is also blind. He loves the water, so his family applied for a beach stroller through CATS so he could go to the beach. “I’ve lived in Chesapeake my whole life so I grew up going to the beach,” says his mother, Jessica Farley. “We really wanted to make memories like that for Christian, too, since the water is his absolute favorite thing in the world.”

Macie and Christian are just a few in a growing number of local children who have been helped by the organization. In 2019, 452 items were provided to 432 children throughout Hampton Roads.  

  Macie Leiphart        Macie Leiphart in first stander

Pictured left: Macie Leiphart in the stander she currently uses; Right: Macie in her first stander when she was 3 years old.

Blog - Christian Farley in beach chair for blog post

Christian Farley in beach stroller he received from CATS.

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