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Gussner fifth graders help adapt toys during Adapt-A-thon

The adapted toys will be given to 12 children with special needs.

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Marcy Szarkowski, assistive technology manager at the Anne Carlsen Center, helps fifth graders at Gussner Elementary School in Jamestown take apart a toy penguin so it can be adapted for use for children with special needs.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN – Fifth graders at Gussner Elementary School and Anne Carlsen Center employees helped adapt toys that will be given to 12 children with special needs during the Adapt-A-Thon event on Wednesday, Nov. 23, at the school.

“I think the best part of this project is that these kids are learning about accessibility, they are learning how to get in there and adapt a toy,” said Marcy Szarkowski, assistive technology manager at the Anne Carlsen Center.

Fifth grader Ayden Thielges said people should help others who need it. He said he helped take apart a toy dog and he and other students were just waiting for the toy to get a jack wired to it.

“It’s very very good for other children because all children should be happy to have toys,” he said. “We are trying to make people feel better.”

Szarkowski said toys are purchased using donations from Scherbenske Inc. and MainSaver in Jamestown and then hacked and fit with a jack so they can be plugged into a more accessible switch for children who have difficulty pinching or hitting a very small button. Once the toys are adapted, children can push a much larger button with their heads, arms or hands.

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Fifth graders help adapt a toy during the Adapt-A-Thon event Wednesday, Nov. 23, at Gussner Elementary School in Jamestown.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Szarkowski said the cost of adapted toys purchased from an online store is double compared to purchasing them from a business and adapting them with help from students and other volunteers.

She said the children who will receive the toys are being identified through the James River Special Education Cooperative, which serves school districts in Edgeley, Ellendale, Kulm, Jamestown, LaMoure, Litchville-Marion, Medina and Montpelier.

She said the best part of the project is having fifth graders at Gussner Elementary School learning about accessibility, how to adapt a toy and that students are doing a project that helps children in need.

“It’s an opportunity for them to learn about accessibility and kind of give back to their community,” she said. “Then kids who are in need of these adaptive toys are getting them for Christmas.”

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Fifth graders help adapt a toy bus during the Adapt-A-Thon event Wednesday, Nov. 23, at Gussner Elementary School in Jamestown.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Luke Anderson, principal at Gussner, said having the Adapt-A-Thon event is a great experience for the students and teachers to try and understand the aspect of children with special needs. He said there are students in classes in the Jamestown Public School District who have differing levels of ability.

“While we see some levels of disability in the classroom in our general day-to-day stuff, there’s deeper levels that they don’t get to see,” he said. “This does give them a little bit of a deeper understanding of how students can be impacted and how much of an impact that they can have with students of all levels.”

Szarkowski said a few Jamestown Regional Medical Center employees wanted to donate their time and helped make the switches for the toys. Part of the switches are made using 3D printing.

“They did the wiring and did all that,” she said. “Those switches will go along with these toys to be given to kids within the community.”

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If any business or school is interested in helping adapt toys or donating to the cause, call Szarkowski at the Anne Carlsen Center at (701) 952-5205.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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