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Jefferson Award Winner Helps Families With Special Needs Children

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Jefferson Award Winner Kelly Steitz (CBS)

Jefferson Award Winner Kelly Steitz (CBS)

SAN CARLOS (CBS 5) – Two years ago, the AbleCloset was founded by San Carlos native Kelly Steitz. In donated warehouse space, Steitz stores more than 200 pieces of specialized pediatric equipment – expensive gear that families with special needs children use daily.

Families can try out, borrow, and return gear to AbleCloset without ever spending a dollar. That gift to people in need has made Steitz this week’s Jefferson Award Winner.

“Most families who aren’t involved in a special needs community would be pretty shocked at how expensive the equipment is,” Steitz said. “Even families who are covered by insurance or have MediCal, it won’t cover everything.”

Steitz knows because her 7-year-old daughter, Kylee, has cerebral palsy. Wheelchairs can run from $5000 to $10,000; a special needs stroller — $2,000. Even with insurance, getting the right item is complicated, can take months, and there’s no guarantee the child will like or even use it.

“The thought was, if there was an inventory of equipment that all these parents could try before they even make a purchase decision or before the state purchases something for them — it just seemed logical that that should be available,” Steitz said. “The more popular items tend to be bath equipment and strollers, because insurance won’t cover both a wheelchair and a stroller, so parents tend to use the strollers quite a bit to preserve their back.”

So, while working full time in corporate marketing, this single mom started taking donations in her garage and built the AbleCloset website to list the inventory.

“Someone can click to borrow the equipment, and if it’s already out they can reserve it,” Steitz explained. “Children need to be measured. You need to make sure it fits them appropriately which is why the inventory is so large.”

Twice a month, AbleCloset opens its warehouse doors to families searching for pediatric equipment. In two short years, the word has spread to where Steitz and her organization now help as many as 20 families a month.

AbleCloset accepts donated equipment. If you have something a child could use, connect with AbleCloset at www.ablecloset.com

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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