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‘Lil' Rhody Riders’ helps children with disabilities have fun during physical therapy

For 6-year-old Kenny Perez, who has spina bifida, the Lil' Rhody Riders program at the University of Rhode Island is helping children living with disabilities have fun, while also enhancing their physical therapy. (WJAR)

A student leadership project at the University of Rhode Island is helping children living with disabilities have fun, while also enhancing their physical therapy.

Who doesn’t remember riding around in a toy car when you were a kid and feeling like an adult?

For 6-year-old Kenny Perez, who has spina bifida, it may never have been a possibility.

But now, thanks to the work of URI graduate students Cara Pineau and Annie Kostenbauer, his smile is here to stay

“For us to work so hard on building the car and then to see the kid actually use it is awesome,” Kostenbauer said.

The program is called Lil' Rhody Riders.

Kostenbauer and Pineau are doctoral students in the physical therapy department and with the help of engineering students, they were able to custom build this car for Kenny who can’t use his legs in a traditional way.

“When you see the kid get in the car and he’s smiling while working on a physical therapy-related goal – it’s rewarding,” Pineau said.

Kenny’s hamstrings will strengthen by operating the car. He pushes back on a custom bar that was added to it to drive forward.

It’s an innovative way to help kids with disabilities.

His mother, Kenya Nunez, said he will be using this car more than his wheelchair.

“Oh my God! I’m so happy. I’m so excited! Thank you,” Nunez told the students, adding that her son’s friends “are going to be so excited when they see him.”

For more information about Lil' Rhody Riders, click here.

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