Group focuses on kids’ equipment needs

Getting into a bathtub shouldn’t be a luxury for kids. Neither should getting from point A to point B. But for some families with children with special needs, insurance companies draw a hard line that leaves no room for things that make life easier.

Such arbitrary coverage decisions that affect the kids he encounters frustrate Tim Caruso, a physical therapist at Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago and president of a local charity, The Kids Equipment Network.

“There’s a lot of people out there who go without things that we take for granted because they don’t have insurance or funding to pay for specialty items for their child,” Caruso says.

So he and others put their frustrations to work by creating The Kids Equipment Network. It refurbishes gently used equipment. So far, the group has helped more than 100 kids like 17-year-old Kelsey Rozema, who received a light-weight manual wheelchair. The chair, declined by insurance twice as “duplicate medical equipment,” is giving her more freedom to be a normal teenager and also is helping make her stronger and more independent, her mom says.

“It was a wonderful, wonderful thing,” says Rozema.

Caruso, who also works in private practice, says he sees so many unmet needs.

“We as a group are in a position to significantly change someone’s life for the better,” Caruso says. “It’s about the greater good; it’s about giving someone the ability to be independent in the world that they live.”

How to help

The Kids Equipment Network needs gently used equipment, money and volunteers to help fill more families’ needs. Families who need equipment can complete an application at

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