Midlands Gives: How Happy Wheels makes kids smile

Happy Wheels helps provide toys and books to children who are hospitalized for children in South Carolina.

LEXINGTON, SC — A South Carolina nonprofit is making a difference in the lives of children who are patients in children’s hospitals by providing them with toys and books to make their day a little brighter.

It can be a devastating feeling when you find out your child is sick.

Spenser and Karoline Fossell gave birth to their second child, Luke, just nine months ago in July.

Luke was born healthy, but ten days later both parents noticed he was eating poorly and his breathing was changing. They then decided to take Luke to a pediatrician.

“She ended up checking her oxygen levels and her oxygen levels weren’t the same between her hand and her foot so she sent us to the emergency room immediately,” Karoline said.

After the doctor echoed Luke’s heart, they discovered that his heart function was not normal. The family was then transported to Charleston Children’s Hospital. Doctors then determined that Luke suffered from heart failure.

After two days in Charleston, Luke was then placed on life support for 12 and a half days.

“From there, his heart slowly started to improve and they were able to stabilize it just with medication, thankfully,” Karoline explained. “After about 22 days they were able to remove the breathing tube from him and we were able to restrain him again.”

After another week in the hospital, the Fossell family was finally able to return home.

At home, Luke had a PICC line in his arm which gave him continuous heart medication to help stabilize his heart.

After Luke returned to the Charleston hospital in November to get tested, they were able to slowly take Luke off intravenous medication and only take oral medication.

“Since November we’ve been able to really treat him more like a normal baby. He still has heart failure. He’s still on the heart transplant list. He’s still a sick little boy. He needs his meds daily He’s on seven different medications four times a day,” Karoline said. “But he’s as happy as can be and we’re really grateful to be able to live our lives almost as normally as possible with him.”

As the Fossell family’s world was turned upside down, they relied on family and community support to get through this.

One nonprofit that was there for them was Happy Wheels.

Happy Wheels is a South Carolina nonprofit organization that provides new toys and books to all hospitalized children at the state’s three children’s hospitals.

Tracey Rankin, the executive director of Happy Wheels, says they see about 350 kids a week.

“It started at Charleston Children’s Hospital,” Rankin said. “It was a hospital program back then until we became a nonprofit in 2012.”

The 501c3 group has volunteers who bring toys and book carts around the hospital to children receiving treatment.

“They knock on the kids’ doors, room by room, and if the kids can, they come out and they can choose their favorite thing from the cart and it’s up to them to keep it and bring it home,” said explained Rankin.

Karoline, as a nurse herself, got to see the impact Happy Wheels had on children’s lives before the non-profit was there to support their families.

“I have for years seen Happy Wheels come knocking on kids’ doors and light up their whole face when they see they can choose whatever toy they want for that day and it really makes them feel, really everyone so happy when they roll around on the floor,” Karoline said.

Once Luke was able to get to the digressive unit before returning home, Happy Wheels provided him with a toy he could hold for the first time after being sedated for almost a month.

Not only did Happy Wheels help Luke, but also Tucker, Luke’s two-year-old brother. Spenser says it was soothing for the family.

“It was something huge. He managed to get something that they could sit down and play and he was playing and we were playing,” Spenser said. “It brought normalcy back to this chaotic (time), and for that hour, it was just normal.”

Happy Wheels offers toys and books for children from infants up to 18 years old. They will have toys for different age groups with rattles, toddler toys, board games, and arts and crafts supplies.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Happy Wheels has been unable to travel to hospitals to assist hospitals and help limit the spread of the virus.

“Everyone is going through a weird time right now,” Karoline said. “Spring is our fundraising time. We have three fundraisers scheduled during the months of March, April and May. Our first two have been canceled due to (COVID-19). One canceled, one postponed. We’re super excited Midlands Gives is ready to go virtual so it doesn’t have to be postponed,” Rankin said.

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Rankin says the money raised through Midlands Gives will help fund their three programs in Palmetto State.

Last year they were able to raise $11,000 for Happy Wheels. This year, they have set a goal of $9,000.

The non-profit organization costs an average of $10 per gift per child. With Happy Wheels seeing 350 children a week, that means they need $3,500 a week to ensure they can bring a smile to the face of every child they see.

“Your monetary donation is a tangible gift for Happy Wheels. We’re turning your $10 into a gift for a child,” Rankin said.

The money you donate will help put a smile on a child’s face when they are going through one of the toughest times in their life.

“When we tell them why we’re here and they get a glimpse of the Happy Wheels cart, seeing the change happen on their faces is absolutely the best moment of their lives,” Rankin explained.

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Not only would it help a child, but also the parents.

“Happy Wheels is all about the joy and the experience and the hospital for kids, but the feedback we get just as often is that it’s such an encouragement for moms and dads and grandparents and kids. carers who stay with the children that this is just a joyful time.”

Rankin went on to say, “It’s not really related to the hospital where they can kind of walk away from the treatment and the things that go with it and just be a family or just be a kid or just be a big one. -parent helping their child choose a toy just for those few moments.”

To donate to Happy Wheels for Midlands Gives, click here.