Bringing smiles to children in need, that is the mission of Midlands nonprofit, Happy Wheels. Happy Wheels is a bright spot for children who are hospitalized in all 3 children's hospitals across the state of South Carolina. The organization recently reached a major milestone, 100,000 kids visited. More than the capacity of Williams Brice stadium in Columbia or Death Valley stadium in Clemson! Executive Director, Tracey Rankin, explains that Happy Wheels has grown exponentially since its inception as a nonprofit in 2012. What began as a volunteer opportunity for Tracey in 2009, turned into a full-time, paying position just a few years later. Since that time, Happy Wheels has grown into a statewide nonprofit that visits approximately 400 children each week in Charleston, Columbia and Greenville. "The funding necessary to provide for 100,000 children is over 1 million dollars and wouldn't be possible without the generous support of local communities across the state", Tracey explains.
Meredith Gvozdas shares their family's experience with Happy Wheels while her daughter Eve was receiving treatment. Eve was diagnosed with leukemia at 2 and a half years old. "The five days spent in the hospital were filled with confusion, things that were uncomfortable for Eve and she had no choices to make of her own until Happy Wheels knocked on the door. It was wonderful to hear that she would get to choose her first Happy Wheels toy." To be able to make that choice, it may seem like something that's small, but what kind of impact does that have? It matters so much in that moment when you don't have a lot of things that you are in control of. On average, Happy Wheels toys cost $10 but as Tracey explains, "it's so much more than that." Those few moments are such an encouragement for the parents and caregivers of the children. In a frightening and unpleasant environment, Happy Wheels provides an opportunity for the children to just be children. For the children, it's the power of being given a choice when choices are few and far between. "Our favorite moment is the change in the kids' faces when they see the cart. They're amazed!"
To donate, please find Happy Wheels' Amazon gift list on their website at HappyWheelsInc.org or give financially.