Innovative Truck Puts Special Needs White Plains Preschooler in Driver’s Seat

White Plains
Photo caption: Front row (L-R:) Leo Rosen with preschool student; Paul Montes, the student’s father; Rosemary Kuttiyara, UPC Occupational Therapist. Back row, L-R: Candelaria Cabanas, the student’s mother; Ana Martinez, UPC; Leslie and Alan Rosen (Leo’s parents); Stephanie Russo Pastilha, CPW Associate Executive Director; Marcy Weintraub, UPC Director. (Photo by Angela Licht)

Cerebral Palsy of Westchester’s (CPW) United Preschool Center (UPC) welcomed high school junior Leo Rosen to campus last week to present an F-150 retrofitted tiny truck to a White Plains student with special needs.

Rosen, a resident of Purchase, handed over the keys to a four-year-old student recipient who has a disability that affects his mobility. Joined by family, CPW and UPC Staff on April 21, the boy had the chance to test drive his truck for the first time, which was built to satisfy his specific OT/PT needs, allowing him to move around easily by way of this battery-boosted ride.

The event was a culmination of a process that started last summer when Rosen reached out to CPW looking for a child who could benefit from such a car or truck. Rosen had received a donation of several trucks from the Connecticut GoBabyGo! Collaborative (Hamden, CT), which takes donated Fisher Price ride-on toy vehicles and outfits them for young children with disabilities, providing them the opportunity to move around independently.

With oversight via Zoom from an engineer who has experience with GoBabyGo! modifications, as well as insight from the United Preschool’s occupational therapist Rosemary Kuttiyara, Rosen was able to modify the truck in his family’s garage, adapting the vehicle to fit the specific needs of the child. In addition, Kuttiyara helped Rosen put together proper operational instructions for the child’s parents.

In addition to the F-150 truck recently completed, Rosen is in the process of adapting three other tiny cars, donated by the Connecticut GoBabyGo! Collaborative, to be retrofitted for other local preschool-aged children with disabilities.

“I am interested in becoming an engineer, I love to build, and I want to do whatever I can to help others,” Rosen explained to United Preschool Director Marcy Weintraub.

A current high school student at St. George’s School in Rhode Island, Rosen has spent much of this past year studying remotely from his home and came up with this project as a way to keep himself engaged during this year of quarantine.

Rosen is eager to outfit more cars for CPW’s UPC students and is looking into obtaining slightly bigger vehicles that could be modified for older, school-aged children with disabilities. 

“I love making kids happy,” Rosen stated as he watched the child successfully drive around on his new power wheels.