"We made them special": Toy Like Me gives disabled kids a familiar friend for the holidays

Published: Dec. 19, 2018 at 12:17 AM EST
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At Fishburn Elementary School in Roanoke, Christmas came early this year, with wrapping paper and smiles galore. But look closely, and you might notice something.

These are no ordinary toys, because these are no ordinary kids. Everyone, both the toys and the kids, has a disability.

"What Toy like me does is we buy toys...and we accommodate them to have different special needs," said Kelly Alcoke, president of the Toy Like Me club at Roanoke College.

Every year, she and a team of like-minded elves spring into action.

"It takes a lot of work," said Alcoke.

Sewing, gluing, bending and otherwise modifying existing toys so that kids in a wheel chair or with a hearing aid have a toy just like them.

It's the brainchild of Roanoke College professor Frances Bosch.

"I shop in August when they're turning toys over. I try and stretch any donations as far as I can," she said.

Bosch began modifying toys three years ago to try and fill what she saw as a gap in the market. But what began with just a few dolls and dinosaurs has exploded

"I would say we've made at least 500 toys this semester," said Kelly Alcoke. So many in fact, that this year, Toy Like Me became an official Roanoke College club just to keep up with the workload.

The hours are long. The work can be hard. But for students like Alcoke, it's always something to smile about.

"I really can't explain the feeling. It really makes you feel good," she said.

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