OVIEDO, Fla. – A tool that resembles the tailgate tents you might find at a University of Central Florida football game is changing the way children with limited mobility make strides.
"The cost to raise a child with a disability is immense, these types of devices are not covered by insurance," Jennifer Tucker, a UCF clinical assistant professor and director of UCF's Go Baby Go!, said.
Since 2015, UCF’s Go Baby Go! program has worked to share devices like the harness system and modified ride-on cars for children out into the Central Florida community. The program operates in clinical settings, playgrounds, and now a dance studio.
This winter, the program partnered with the Chance 2 Dance studio to incorporate the unique harness system into their performance.
“We are one of the first chapters in the U.S. to begin taking the harness technology out into the community to allow children with disabilities to participate in meaningful ways,” Tucker said.
Chance 2 Dance brought dancers of all abilities together for The Nutcracker Reimagined.
Caroline Osterhaus practiced with her instructors before the big performance. At 4 years old, Osterhaus lost her ability to walk because of an extremely rare genetic condition that causes seizures.
“Luckily she had been involved in Chance 2 Dance and they reached out and said, ‘We’ve got this harness program, what do you think about giving it a shot?’ And here we are,” Jenny Osterhaus, Caroline’s mom said while watching her rehearse.
The collaboration between the two Central Florida organizations gave ballet dancers like Osterhaus the chance to shine on stage.
"She would never do that without the harness for sure, she doesn't trust herself enough," Osterhaus said.
The harness system was developed by Professor Cole Galloway, the nationally recognized founder of Go Baby Go! at the University of Delaware. Tucker's work at UCF has brought physical therapy students and community members together to brainstorm new methods of mobility for children.
“What we are looking for is to create those really enriched opportunities underneath the harness because that’s where the magic is for kids,” Tucker said.