If you’re searching for laughter in this time of uncertainty, look — or listen, rather — no further than to 9-year-old Carly Roby. In fact, I couldn’t help but grin as I heard Carly’s incessant giggles in the background while interviewing her mother on the phone.
Carly doesn’t laugh because life is easy. Life with no sight, no speech, impaired hearing, and a feeding tube is quite the opposite. Born with cerebral palsy, Carly is confined to a wheelchair, is prone to seizures, and has undergone many surgeries. But mother Carla Roby reiterated multiple times that Carly is “a happy girl who loves everybody and everybody loves.”
This past Christmas Carly received an invaluable gift, a wheelchair swing. The present was inspired by a treasured moment that her cousin Blake Edge had captured on video a couple years before. During a family reunion, Blake’s mother and Carla’s mother were swinging Carly in a blanket. Everyone was “laughing like crazy,” and the look on Carly’s face was “pure joy.”
When Blake saw a wheelchair swing online, he wanted Carly to have one of her own. Even though she had a swing at her house, Carly was outgrowing it quickly. With Carly’s muscle-tone issues, Carla had difficulty lifting her daughter into the swing. As Blake scoured the internet, “the room started spinning” because prices were in the thousands. Maybe he could fashion one from old pipes and materials?
Next, Blake texted a picture to his uncle, Tom Jones, owner and president of Industrial Mold and Machine. Tom readily agreed with Blake’s “thoughtful idea.” At Thanksgiving, the two stealthily measured to see if Tom’s design would fit in Carly’s yard. During the month of December, Tom and his fabricators cut and welded the frame from new materials. Blake’s friend and owner of D&K Powder Coating, Brian Ray, sandblasted and powder coated the swing.
At the 2019 family Christmas celebration, Tom and Blake surprised Carly and Carla with the swing. In early April, installation of the swing was a family affair. The front ramp folds down, so Carly can “roll right off the sidewalk, up the ramp, and onto the swing,” said Blake. The wheelchair locks into place and Carly swings — and laughs — as long as anyone can push her. Carla is thankful for the “big family that loves [Carly] and takes good care of her.”
Now that Carly can’t attend Country Heights Elementary School or the Wendell Foster Campus due to the coronavirus, the swing is even more precious. Her other favorite activities like swimming, playing at the park, going to the movies, and riding horses at Dream Riders are also closed. Even the Bar-B-Q Festival 5K which she participates in with Team Karlie has been cancelled.
Like most kids her age, Carly gets tired of playing in the house. “She loves being outside taking in the fresh air and the various sounds,” Carla said. So when the weather is nice, Carly can be found outside going for a stroll, blowing bubbles, and of course, swinging. The cost of the swing has never been mentioned, as Carly’s “deep belly laughs” are certainly priceless.