Alberta non-profit hopes to keep kids with disabilities warm during winter months

An Edmonton man is hoping that some creativity from his parents will help kids living with disabilities spend more time outdoors.

When Zachary Weeks was a child winters took a toll on him. The 30-year-old lives with cerebral palsy and has relied on a wheelchair since the age of four. Spending time outside playing with his friends often resulted in ice cold legs and painful leg cramps.

“I was sort of limited to certain days when I could go out and play,” Weeks said. “There were numerous days when I’d have to miss recess because it was too cold out.”

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Weeks would use blankets but they would fall off or get tangled in his wheels, so his mom, with help from family members, modified an old sleeping bag.

“It was thick, it was ugly, and it was bulky, but it worked,” Heather Weeks, Zachary’s mom, said.

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That was back in 1995. Now nearly a quarter of a century later, Heather has modified the design with three layers of fabric to make it warm and wind resistant, as well as durable. She named it the Zac Sac after her son.

It sits just under a persons armpits and covers both the front and back of their lower body.

“Our goal is to keep kids with disabilities warm and able to enjoy their community like anyone else,” Zachary Weeks said.

The family has created a non-profit, the Zachary Weeks Foundation, which gifts Zac Sacs to children living with disabilities.

They have received orders from Alberta, B.C., and overseas.

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Every Zac Sac is specially made to match each child’s personality.

Six-year-old Angel Ulrich has a Disney Cars print on the inside of his.

“It’s been a great help being able to get him out and make sure he stays warm,” Erika Allan, Angel’s step-mom, said. “The cold really effects his legs.”

Angel was born three months premature and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and Global Developmental Delay. He relies on a wheelchair to get around.

Angel Ulrich gets into his Zac Sac before heading outside.

Paul Rampersaud, Global News

Allan said getting Angel outside was a difficult process before the Zac Sac.

Now, it takes just moments for him to get inside the modified blanket and snapped in.

“It makes it so much easier,” Allan said.

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Zachery Weeks hopes to be able to help as many kids as possible. Right now the family is privately funding each Zac Sac at an average cost of $60 to $80, depending on the size, and not including labour. The foundation is accepting monetary donations, as well as Fabricland gift cards to cover the cost of materials.

The foundation has handed out nearly 100 Zac Sacs and all they ask from those they give the blankets to is that they help with shipping.

“We decided to take the gift approach to help out parents,” Heather Weeks said. “Everything (for kids with disabilities) does cost a fortune.”

Zachery Weeks is an advocate for people with disabilities and he sits on Edmonton’s Accessibility Advisory Committee. His mom said it is his passion to help others that has got this idea off the ground.

“In the end, I’ve been there and my family’s been there and we just want a more inclusive community,” Zachary Weeks said.

 




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