Going Mobile

Marissa Smith, 5, recently received a pint-sized power wheelchair from Heartland Independent Living Center. Marissa was born with cerebral palsy, a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by injury or abnormal development in the immature brain, most often before birth. With the chair, Marissa’s grandmother, Missy Thompson, right, said her granddaughter can now “ride bikes” with other children. Submitted Photo.

A 5-year-old with cerebral palsy can be more mobile, thanks to a donation from Heartland Independent Living Center (HILC).

The center recently gave Marissa Smith, Villa Ridge, a power wheelchair, which allows her to move about the home and go places she struggled to go before.

The wheelchair is not the first gift Marissa and her grandmother Missy Thompson have received from Heartland.

In November 2012 Franklin County Developmental Services contacted HILC staff to see if they could help Marissa’s family obtain adaptive equipment.

The first item Marissa received was a feeding chair the organization located at another HILC in Kansas City.

Staff members voluntarily drove 215 miles to pick it up.

HILC then discovered Marissa’s difficulty getting into her home, and her grandmother asked if they could get a ramp to replace the stairs.

“I would carry Marissa up and down the steps to the school bus,” Thompson said. “It really tore up my back. I was off work for a month.”

With labor donated by the Chris Bohl Foundation of Rosebud, a 20-foot ramp was built in February.

HILC then located the power chair from another independent living center in Jefferson City and had the child-sized chair refurbished and delivered to Marissa’s door.

Now Marissa’s grandmother said Marissa can “ride bikes” with her siblings and other children in the neighborhood.

“Independence suits her just fine,” Thompson said. “Marissa is a real trooper.”

HILC is a nonprofit, nonresidential, community-based 501(c)(3) organization that serves individuals with disabilities primarily in Franklin, Gasconade and Maries counties.

Programs and services assist people in living independently in their own homes by offering a number of free services, including advocacy, information/referral, skills training, home modifications, transitional help, adaptive equipment and dental services.

For more information on HILC, people may call 866-322-3224.