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Happy Wheels makes children’s hearts go round and round

Head into The Haven on Main Street in Lexington and get more than the cup of coffee you ordered.

The local coffee shop is a supporter of Happy Wheels, a nonprofit dedicated to provided cheer in the form of toys and books to children in the hospital. Kelli Limehouse, owner of The Haven, and Tracey Rankin, Executive Director of Happy Wheels wanted to offer people in Lexington the opportunity to give back to children recuperating in the hospital during the holidays.

“I live in Lexington so I wanted a local spot in Lexington. I love supporting local businesses,” said Rankin, who also has drop off boxes at Revente in Five Points, The Local Buzz in Rosewood and St. Andrews Presbyterian in Irmo. People in the Upstate and in Charleston can also find drop off sites which are available on the Happy Wheels website.

The purpose of the drop off boxes is to give toys and books to children up to age 18 recovering in any of the three children’s hospitals across the state, according to Rankin. “Volunteers go and push carts throughout the hospital one day out of the week. There are two carts – one is filled with new books and one with new toys. The volunteers visit the kids and they get to pick out a toy one week and a book another week.”

Donations are accepted all throughout the year but Christmas tends to have a higher need, she explains. There are many opportunities to give and donate and the first step is to head to the website for an inquiry and immediate opportunities available.

In fact, this week there is an opportunity to help with gift wrapping at Barnes and Noble in Columbia, she said, adding people may also buy new books at Barnes and Noble which will be donated to a child in one of the hospitals. All donations must be brand new, she explained as they are being delivered to children in hospitals and have to be extra careful about germs.

Happy Wheels has been in Columbia since 2009. Rankin became acquainted with Jackie Shealy, who is a former director with Happy Wheels at MUSC. Rankin became interested and decided to pursue Happy Wheels at the local children’s hospital in Columbia. It then caught wind and landed in Greenville.

Rankin explains the organization has been a nonprofit since 2012 but the program was born in 1999 in Charleston. Charleston is definitely the heart of the organization. In fact, Rankin said they began with the donation boxes earlier this year because of the effects of Hurricane Matthew along the coast.

“We lost about $1,000 in Charleston after Hurricane Matthew’s water damage so we put out boxes early to recuperate,” said Rankin. There are always toys and books to donate and if anyone has it on their heart to donate, it will make a young person’s day and take his or her mind off why they are in the hospital. For more information about volunteering or donation sites, visit www.happywheelsinc.org.

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