WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) – One of the joys of Christmas is that every child gets a toy from Santa Claus. But many children with disabilities end up with toys they can’t play with. They don’t have the dexterity to be able to make the toy work without help. One Colorado non-profit is changing that by hacking toys and making them accessible to more children.

“If we can be Santa, every kid will get a toy,” said Deana Watson, co-founder of Max Mods, a non-profit dedicated to making the world more accessible for people with disabilities.

Deana Watson, co-founder of Max Mods.

Deana Watson, co-founder of Max Mods. (credit CBS)

Watson and her husband, Steve, collect toy donations throughout the year. Then for the last six years, they’ve held a one-day, hack-a-thon, called Santa’s Little Hackers. Tech-minded volunteers hack the toys to make them easier to operate, then they ship the toys to children all over the world.

“I think it makes us feel like we’re meeting a need in the community that’s being unmet,” Steve Watson told CBS4.

Steve Watson

Steve Watson (credit CBS)

The Watson’s keep a storage shed where they’ve collected about 1050 toys for this year’s hack. They have requests for 2249 adapted toys for this Christmas. They are always in need of more donations. The demand for their toys grows every year by word of mouth. Adapted toys are available for sale, but are often exorbitantly expensive because of the time, parts, and expertise it takes to refit them.

“We can’t say enough good things about Santa’s Little Hackers,” said Reid Fischer, the father of a child with disabilities.

Laura (credit CBS)

Laura is five years old, and she loves the toys she’s gotten from Santa’s Little Hackers. Howard and Fischer were so moved by the difference they made in their daughter’s life that they learned to hack her toys themselves, so that she could have more accessible things to play with.

“It was a game changer because up until that point Laura couldn’t play independently,” said Angela Howard, Laura’s mother.

“We love seeing that there is something she can do, that she can control, on her terms,” Fischer added.

Angela Howard & Reid Fischer

Angela Howard & Reid Fischer (credit CBS)

It was that same sense of independence that the Watson’s saw in their own son when they hacked his first toy, six years ago.

“These toys, it’s a need in our community because it does introduce cause and effect,” Deana Watson explained.

(credit Max Mods)

That concept of cause and effect that is learned when a child is young, turns into a lifetime of further opportunities.

“Our son now uses a computer to communicate with. He can have a conversation, he writes poetry, he writes songs, he writes essays for school, and it started by pressing a button and making a toy turn on,” Steve Watson explained.

LINK: Santa’s Little Hackers

Now the Watsons feel the responsibility of making a Christmas miracle for every child who needs one.


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