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Socially Distant Pediatric Belt Cane Production

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

Once upon a time before COVID-19, my husband Benny and I rode our bicycles through New York City as part of an organized bike ride named the Five Boroughs, because the 54-mile route takes riders through all five NYC boroughs (Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island). One of the many sights includes crossing the Third Ave bridge – it is a spectacularly fun ride.

Grace is riding her bike surrounded by other bike riders all dressed in biking garb and helmets.
Crossing the Third Ave. Bridge during 5 Borough Ride

Yesterday, Benny and I drove through four NYC boroughs and Long Island with even greater excitement and satisfaction. We were working in service of children who need pediatric belt canes for safe mobility. We would do anything to achieve Safe Toddles' mission, to provide an effective system of safe mobility for babies who are blind and mobility visually impaired learning to walk, including the job of couriers.

three year old boy stands with arms held wide wearing belt cane.
Belt canes build self confidence

Such is the new reality of COVID-19. The way we built belt canes pre-pandemic – was much simpler- all the manufacturing and shipping was housed under one roof in Shames Engineering Professor Marom Bikson’s Lab on the third floor of the Center for Design and Innovation on the City University of New York campus. There, he and Mohamad FallahRad led a small army of engineering students who enlisted to make pediatric belt canes.

Mohamad stands next to 8 shipping boxes stacked on a mail cart. title reads 1 year ago, below says aonther great day at Marom Bikson's labs where our Toddler Canes are built and shipped! Weh have Mohamad Falla...

Now the campus is quiet, but our workers have been reactivated in making canes at home. The purpose of this blog is to detail one new step in the pediatric belt cane making process - schlepping parts from one house to another. These photos will share Benny and my recent journey to move around cane parts to prepare for their eventual assembly into pediatric belt canes (aka toddler canes).

After we left our home in sleepy Dutchess County New York (70 plus miles from NYC), our first events included city traffic and the Manhattan skyline seen from the Robert F. Kennedy bridge.

Grace wearing sunglasses smiles at camera, Benny side view as he drvies the car
Benny drives, I navigate with help from Waze app
Interstate exchange, overpass and roadway have many cars.
Still plenty of traffic in NYC
NYC skyline with black cloud cover obscuring top of the high rises.
View of Manhattan skyline from the RFK Bridge
Road sign reads Be respectful wear a mask in public
Reminders to wear masks are posted on every roadway in NYC

In Queens, Julianna provided us with two bags of 3D parts she printed. One bag was for Osagie and one bag for Mohamad. The parts Julianna printed need to be cleaned up and readied for assembly.

Both wear dark colored masks, the bags are white plastic.
Grace and Julianna pose with the bags of parts
Grace and Julianna selfie, Julianna hols up a black part, hard to tell what it is
Julianna shows one of the just printed belt cane parts

After that, we made our way to Brooklyn to bring Osagie his bag and pick up the parts he also prepared for Mohamad. Osagie cleans up the newly printed 3D parts and assembles them into pieces that Mohamad will use to make the finished belt canes. He also cuts and partly assembles the belts.

a narrow ally way seen through the passenger windown
Waze knows the back way to go to Brooklyn
Osagie stands near the rear of the car with boxes and bags filled with different belt cane parts
Osagie shows the many parts he prepped for assembly
A box filled with black magnet pockets.
Each belt needs two magnet pockets
bag filled with red 3D printed cane tips.
Each cane frame uses two red cane tips
large wads of belt fabric held together with tape by size.
Belts are hand crafted as they are unique to the belt cane

We then made our way to Long Island. There we dropped off all of these parts and collect our bonus- we got to meet Melody, Mohamad and Shadi’s almost one-month old daughter. The next time we visit them; we’ll be picking up fully assembled canes. Mohamad assembles and glues them together according to the sizes that have been requested by families and professionals.

Highway seen through passager window on each side is gree grass and trees
Long Island has a bit more grass than the city boroughs
Grace in forground, Mohamd holds Melody and Shadi poses with them
Happy family - so great to see Shadi, Melody and Mohamad today

Benny and I are responsible for boxing and shipping the completed canes. We are learning everyday. One lesson we learned recently was a very tough lesson to learn because instead of getting the free pediatric belt cane to Reeti to begin walking with safety, her box was returned due to our mistake.

We learned several important lessons from our mistake: 1) you must get a custom's form completed even when shipping a free belt cane via Free Matter, 2) the USPS will provide tracking numbers for Free Matter mail, and 3) we need to use a lot more tape! Reeti's belt cane is going to be repacked and shipped back to her on Monday!

Grace stands holding a busted box the safe toddles mailing lable and the word fragile
Last stop the Bronx (City College campus in Harlem) due to shipping error

We have recently received just over 1500 dollars donated to our cause by good Samaritans. Every donated dollar goes to making belt canes. Everyone at Safe Toddles thanks you for your help, your patience and your belief in the innate abilities of toddlers who are blind and mobility visually impaired.

When you give children who are blind an arm to hold on to you keep them dependent. When you teach them them to wear their belt canes you unleash their learning potential.

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