Knoxville organization reworks toys for children with disabilities ahead of Christmas


KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WATE) – Santa checks toys twice to make sure everyone is ready for someone nice. Santa’s elves like Fernando de Spark have been busy making each toy suitable for children with disabilities.

Many popular toys this Christmas season are designed without having in mind children with special needs or limited abilities. That’s where Spark’s Toy Tech program comes in.

A team of special elves along with Spark Knoxville and Knox Makers work together to make toys that are adaptable for kids who need them.

“What we do is take the toy apart so that every toy has a brain,” said Mary Thom Adams, executive director of Spark. “Some of them are more complicated than others, some of them are easier.”

Instead of trying to press a button hidden inside a toy, that button is placed in a more accessible location. The adjustment makes it easier for a disabled child to reach. The modified toys will be handed out to children at the Toy Tech event next week.

“It’s a lot of fun seeing them smile and knowing that they are going to be able to play with toys like everyone else is,” Adams said. “Every child deserves to play. “

The project gets an A-plus for “Santa,” played by Gary Harmon, a former teacher, who knows what it’s like to live with a disability.

“Santa was also a disabled little boy once, and I never saw a Santa Claus who didn’t have hands,” Harmon said. “It would have been so cool. I didn’t know that people without hands could grow up and have a job. But I have one.

Thank you, Santa, for sharing the gift of this post and making toy gifts ready and accessible for a child this Christmas.

If your child would like one of the suitable toys, you need to register for the toy driving event. The toys will be distributed from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, December 8 at the Spark office, 116 Childress St., Knoxville. You can register or donate at


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