College students modify toys for children with disabilities

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Roanoke, Va. (WDBJ7) -- "I have $1,300 worth of toys," said Roanoke College Professor Frances Bosch's as she shows off her office filled with toys. They are toys she and her students modified for children with disabilities for a holiday project called "Toy Like Me."

Speech Language Pathologist Kerry Vipperman thought the toys would be great for her students.

"I had just contacted them because I wanted to buy a couple of dolls for the classroom and they were like, 'No we could do so much more,'" said Vipperman.

"I was not going to let them buy anything. I said, 'We'll donate,'" said Bosch.

Thursday Roanoke College students brought their modified toys to Virginia Heights Elementary School where children in the Roanoke Valley Regional Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing each opened their gifts.

"It was really sweet to see the smile on their face and realize that the doll is just like them and they would put their hand to their head when they saw the implants matched what they had," said Roanoke College Student Emily Whitaker.

The students even went as far as taking apart the dolls to install magnets for their cochlear implants.

"We did a lot of sewing, gluing to get the implants to attach on," said Whitaker.

There's Superman, Spiderman, and even Barbie dolls with hearing aids and cochlear implants just like the students.

"It lets them know that they're not alone with having cochlear implants or hearing aids," said Vipperman. "They may not see a lot of children, or ever a toy with them. It just connects the world to them."

"This is what it's about, belonging. So I'm really glad we did this," said Bosch.

Bosch and her students also will take their modified toys to patients in Carilion Clinic, a not-for-profit health care organization.