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      Help for handicapped children

      Nine-year-old Mark Ward-Harbaum travels all the way from Burt Township to get crutches at Marquette's Wright & Filippis. He travels even farther downstate to get treatment for his hearing disability. He has a condition called Goldenhar Syndrome, which impacts his hearing and bone structure. Thanks to Children's Special Healthcare Services, his mom doesn't have to cover his equipment, a cost that adds up.

      "The kids are growing and the frequency with which we have to replace the equipment, when you have a paralyzed adult, they're not going to outgrow their wheelchair in two years (like children)," points out Cecilia Johnson with Wright & Filippis.

      Children's Special Healthcare Services is a state and federally-funded program that helps cover the cost of care for Michigan children with qualifying handicaps up to the age of 21. Families of all incomes are eligible to join, even those with insurance, since insurance doesn't cover everything.

      "Michigan Medicaid won't even pay for a wheelchair for a child until they're over two years old," Johnson said.

      But with dropping state reimbursement rates, many families are still struggling to afford the exact equipment that meets their child's needs. Equipment can be costly; braces run around $1,000 and a customized wheelchair can run up to $5,000. But donating to your local non-profit charity organization can help those who don't qualify for state programs.

      Both Saint Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army have loan closets that lend families handicap equipment. By donating to those organizations, you can help handicapped children in your area get the help they need.