See Me Thrive

SANDERSON FARMS EMPLOYEE ADAPTS TOYS FOR SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN

When most are buying presents for their loved ones to carefully wrap and place underneath the Christmas tree, one Sanderson Farms employee is spending her spare time this holiday season ensuring that children in need have toys adapted and customized to their individual needs. That special employee is none other than Executive Secretary to the Director of Operations, Tessa Cain, who has worked for Sanderson Farms for over 17 years.

When Cain’s granddaughter, Everly, was born with congenital cytomegalovirus six years ago, her outlook on life changed dramatically. Everly’s condition caused her to have limited motor skills and low muscle tone, which is the source of her inability to interact with typical toys that you would see a child of her age playing with. Today, most children’s toys have activation points that are small and difficult to press and require fine motor skills along with hand and finger strength to activate them.

For Cain and her husband, Hank, Everly’s inability to play with toys like all the other kids was simply something they couldn’t accept, so they took it upon themselves to find a way for Everly to express herself and play right alongside her older brother, Rylan. Thankfully, others before them had identified how to make toys more accessible for children with special needs by converting the toys to use a larger, easy-to-press switch that is tailored to the needs of the individual child, making it possible for them to activate and play with toys on their own.

When shopping for Everly’s Christmas gifts last year, the Cain family found that the cost of an adapted toy was over $100 with an additional $50 cost for the easy-to-press switch to activate the toy. Knowing many families would not be able to afford such costly toys, the Cains decided to establish a toy mission and non-profit organization in Everly’s honor so that all children, regardless of their needs or disabilities, could simply be kids and play with their toys like everyone else.

“Like all kids, Everly is so proud of herself when she activates a toy, and parents also feel such joy when their child is able to activate a toy on their own,” said Cain. “The desire to see her and others like her have access to affordable adapted toys so that they can play and learn is the reason why we began ‘See Me Thrive Adapted Toys.’”

As the Cain family saw Everly thrive, they wanted to help other children like her by adapting toys that help them learn and thrive.  The Cains committed to adapting a certain number of toys each month and the orders simply took off from there. Now, they adapt an average of 70 toys per month for children in need.

“Our mission is to change the world of a child one toy at a time,” said Cain. “When we began, we knew we couldn’t change the whole world, but we could bring joy to one child’s world at a time.”

Since March 2020, the Cain family has sold over 640 adapted toys and switches through the See Me Thrive nonprofit organization and shipped to all but eight states in the United States, as well as overseas to Scotland and Australia. All proceeds from the sale of toys are reinvested in the nonprofit organization to purchase additional toys and supplies for other children in need.

“Imagine not being able to play with a toy that is right in front of you,” said Cain. “You are able to look at it, but you are not able to make it work. You want to hear it sing or watch it dance, but you are not able to due to your limitations. With an adapted toy, by pressing a switch that is ideal for your needs, you are able to make the toy sing or dance. When that happens, a child begins to learn, as toys are not just for play, but for learning, too.”

If life has taught the Cain family anything, it is to celebrate everything. “No matter how small a milestone may seem, celebrate it, because it took a lot of hard work to accomplish. Special needs kids and adults have a brilliant mind, and just because they might not be able to communicate that with you, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Keep trying to find solutions for their abilities such as communication devices and adapted toys.”

For more information about See Me Thrive and the work they do, visit www.seemethrive.org.

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