BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN When Lynn Bartels learned that a splash pad would be established in Delano, her first thought was, “What can we do to help kids in a wheelchair use the splash pad?”
Bartels knows firsthand about the costs associated with wheelchairs and the damage that treated water can cause to them.
“Everyday wheelchairs are expensive,” Bartels said. “My daughter, Marissa, just got one, and it was $5,300. When you’re using that with city water that’s been treated, it damages them quickly . . . When the cushion gets wet, it’s wet for days. It can cause pressure sores and skin irritations.”
Bartels did her research, and found wheelchairs with parts that hold up to the elements and tires that adhere to the cement better.
One model is the Hippocampe, and the city will be purchasing two, with the total cost covered by donations.
“One will have a headrest on it and a chest belt so people without core muscle support will be able to use them without worrying about falling out or slipping out of the chair,” Bartels said. “The other one will just have a lap belt. Those who have more core function can wheel themselves around and play in the water easier.”
The standard model costs $2,900, while the model with the headrest and chest belt costs $3,100. One of each model has been purchased, and are expected to be delivered in January.
Skis can also be purchased for those chairs, and Bartels would like to raise funds to do so, to allow wheelchair-bound individuals to get outside in the winter.
The other model is a ZipZac, which is similar to a Bumbo chair with wheels.
“They’re modifying them to have stainless steel parts,” Bartels said. “It’s a pilot program for a company out of Ham Lake.”
Those come with a price tag of about $1,300, Bartels said.
Two of these wheelchairs have been purchased, and are due to be delivered in late December or early January.
When the splash pad opens in May, the wheelchairs will be available, and the staff will be trained how to maintain them.
“These will be available for anybody who needs to use them, free of charge,” Bartels said. “They will check them out at the concession stand down at the splash pad. They’ll have to sign a waiver.”
Information about the wheelchairs will be posted on the splash pad website. Bartels has also been reaching out to groups that could utilize the wheelchairs.
“That will, hopefully, entice people to come to the splash pad and enjoy it,” Bartels said. “This will be one of a few splash pads that have this available. Some water parks have them available.”
Donations have made this possible.
“We’ve gotten some significant donations, allowing us to put the first two orders in,” Bartels said.
Donations have come from the General Federated Women’s Club of Delano and the Loretto Lions, and the Delano Area Community Foundation has committed to a donation, as well.
“The first check came in, and I said, “Whoa, OK,” Bartels said. “The next check was even bigger. There are very generous groups out there willing to help. I was pleasantly surprised that they can see how these will impact the community. The big idea is to get these kids playing with other kids and break down the barrier of a disability. I see these organizations understand this, which is nice.
“It’s not always easy for these kids to fit in,” Bartels continued. “Whatever we can do to help with that is my goal. I hope lots of people use them, and people can see that the money went for a good cause.”
In January, Bartels will be applying for grant funding, and she is also in contact with two other organizations regarding donations to allow the purchase of spare parts and, potentially, skis for the Hippocampes.
She is pleased with how people and organizations have responded to the project.
“So far, it’s been well-received,” Bartels said.
For more information or to donate, contact Bartels at (763) 439-4393 or call Delano City Hall at (763) 972-0550.