• This Baylor student group exists solely to serve those with disabilities

    There are more than 350 student organizations at Baylor. That’s hundreds of opportunities for students to find their niche, meet people excited about the same thing, and form their own community. Many have a service component to them, but few are founded solely on the idea of helping others.

    Baylor Helping Hands is one of those special organizations.

    Founded in 2016, Helping Hands was chartered specifically to meet any need that cannot be met due to a physical or mental disability, on or off campus. That can mean anything from eating lunch with someone who has a disability or helping them around the house to fundraising for a specific tool they need to improve their quality of life.

    It all began in the fall of 2015, when now-senior Taylor Ernst noticed a fellow Baylor student struggling to get to class after someone stole his motorized chair. In the process of helping raise money to replace the stolen scooter, Ernst realized there was a gap between needs and local and state funding for those with disabilities that he could help fill.

    In 2017, the organization raised $3,000 for a support chair for Midway High School student Cody Kusler, who was diagnosed with low-functioning autism and has epilepsy. After sending out emails, networking through social media and in-person outreach, Helping Hands raised $4,500 — more than enough to purchase the chair.

    “To raise that much money in three days, that stuff doesn’t just happen,” Ernst says. “There’s got to be something else involved. It was just God using people to do his work.”

    Midway High School student Cody Kusler

    This semester, Helping Hands had another opportunity to greatly improve a life when they raised enough funds for a motorized wheelchair for 7-year-old Caoimhe McCarty. Caoimhe was born with encephalocele, meaning the back of her skull did not form completely, causing several medical problems throughout her life.

    “[With this new wheelchair], she can have independence. She is expressing her independence so much and wants to be going and doing things. … She doesn’t like being still and being restrained and contained in things. This will give her 100% freedom to do that,” Caoimhe’s mother told the Baylor Lariat.

    7-year-old Caoimhe McCarty

    So far, Baylor Helping Hands has been able to fund new hearing aids, wheelchairs and other equipment and build wheelchair ramps for people who cannot access them.

    “If you give people a great cause and a place where they can take action, almost every single time, people want to do good; they just need a little bit of a push, and they need a cause,” Ernst told the Lariat. “That’s kind of what we’re here for: to be that cause and be that push, to where they can really hit their full potential, to really give back.”

    Sic ’em, Helping Hands!

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