Wheelchair coat for Maysa

Family grateful for new wheelchair coat for Maysa

Maysa Abd Allah can now go outside to play with her friends no matter the weather, thanks to a custom-made winter coat that covers her from head to toe.

The 10-year-old Grade 4 student at Queen Victoria Elementary School has cerebral palsy and many days last winter she was too cold in her wheelchair to be outside. But she disliked being held back from recess.

Then educational assistant Marisa Armenia McIntyre saw a video on Facebook featuring a little girl bundled up in a wheelchair body coat. The custom-made coat cost $200 and brainstorming began about how to make that happen for the Abd Allah family.

Maysa is the oldest of four children of a Syrian couple who immigrated to Canada in 2016. She has sisters in Grade 3 and Grade 1 at Queen Victoria, along with a three-year-old brother.

School office administrator Shelley Hayward suggested the school could apply for a grant to buy the coat from the Hamilton Foundation for Student Success and she did the legwork to land the funding.

Maysa chose a black coat and school staff ordered through X-Ability, a Michigan company launched by a mother who created a custom coat for her daughter who uses a wheelchair. She almost immediately got 25,000 requests to purchase after a video posted for her daughter’s caregivers to show them how to use the coat was viewed more than 12 million times.

“The Foundation is really wonderful,” said Hayward. “We submitted the application online and, within 48 hours, we had an answer.”

The coat arrived in January and Maysa hasn’t missed a recess since.
“She’s now on the same playing field as her peers,” said the school’s learning resource teacher Lindsay Scott. “She can do what they do.”

Queen Victoria has accessed the Foundation for clothing for other students, including winter wear and foot wear.

“You can make an impact on a student’s life because you can show that you care about them,” said Hayward.

The purchase of the wheelchair coat is a perfect example of what the Foundation can help to achieve, says Leah Schwenger, chair of the Foundation.
“We are focused on supporting the needs of students. We do not want to see any students denied an opportunity or an experience because their family cannot afford something.”

The coat looks almost like a sleeping bag and features openings so Maysa’s wheelchair belts can slide through. Even her feet are entirely zipped up.

It is so warm that Maysa is comfortable outside no matter the temperature. The plan to keep the coat in the chair, so she is just zipped into it to go out for recess, had to be changed because she gets so hot in the school.

Maysa is a girl of few words in an interview, but she has endearing deep dimples and breaks into a wide smile often. She does say that gym and art are her favourite classes.

“Maysa is very well-liked,” said Scott. “She is happy and has a lot of friends in school. Her warm personality is something other kids like to be around.”

Maysa’s father Ibrahim Abd Allah said his family is very grateful for the Foundation’s gift.

“It’s not enough to tell you thank you.”