Anne Carlsen Center hosts first-ever Adapt-A-Thon

Many hands made for light work at the University of Jamestown's Student Engagement Center Tuesday afternoon.

ACC n UJ Adapt a Thon event
Marcy Szarkowski, assistive technology manager with the Anne Carlsen Center, demonstrates, to a group of University of Jamestown students, a mechanism used to make a toy accessible for a child with limited physical abilities. The university students helped assemble some parts to make the toy more useable during an Adapt-A-Thon event. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Many hands made for light work at the University of Jamestown's Student Engagement Center Tuesday afternoon.

Alex Huff, University of Jamestown graduate assistant of student activities, and Marcey Szarkowski, assistive technology manager for the Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown, organized ACC's first-ever Adapt-A-Thon event with the aim of adapting off-the-shelf toys for children with a physical disability.

"We were able to adapt around 10 toys," Huff said. "By the end of the two hours, we had about 15 to 20 individuals swing by. I thought it went well. It's a way to give back to the community that is not very common."

Szarkowski and Huff will be holding another two-hour Adapt-A-Thon session from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday.


"A lot of our kids may have limited motor movement - they may be able to move their hand a little bit but not their arm," Szarkowski said. "A lot of times they don't get the opportunity for play because of their physical challenges. When they are not able to play we need to provide them a way to do that."

Szarkowski said the center partnered with MainSaver and Scherbenske Inc. of Jamestown to purchase a number of unadapted products and the electronics needed to adapt each toy ACC offered five different types of toys to adapt and reassemble.

Szarkowski and the Anne Carlsen Center partnered with the Huff and UJ to provide a space and the manpower to assemble the toys. Students were not required to help during the two-hour event, just simply encouraged to stop and learn more about the reasoning behind it.

"We were really looking for an opportunity for us to spread a little bit of awareness about accessibility," Szarkowski said. "We were really looking at collaborating with the university students to take these toys off the shelf that aren't modified - for a lot cheaper - and then have (the students) do the work."

Huff said members of the UJ basketball team, golf team, some nursing students and even some football coaches stopped by the Student Engagement Center to offer their assistance.

Szarkowski said pre-adapted toys generally cost two to three times as much as the unadapted version - a financial burden that can weigh heavily on families during the holidays. With the help of UJ students, Szarkowski said the center has been able to provide the adapted toys to children all across the state for a fraction of the typical price.

"Right now we are identifying kids to receive these toys through our early intervention program from Devils Lake, Fargo and Grand Forks," Szarkowski said. "Therapists are contacting me to say they have a child (and) this toy with this size switch would be appropriate for them.

"What we are going to do is rebox these up after we adapt them, wrap them up for Christmas and then give them to those kids for Christmas."


The purpose of the Adapt-A-Thon wasn't just to alleviate financial strain during the holiday season.

"It's really a win-win," Scarkowski said of the event. "We want to adapt these toys to give these kids for Christmas this year and then a part of that is using university students to do the hands-on stuff and to increase that awareness and to give back a little bit. I think it really spreads awareness about accessibility to everybody."

Gerber is a sports writer for the Jamestown Sun.
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