A Cart Full of Joy
Nonprofit Happy Wheels provides toys and books for hospitalized children with support from State Farm Neighborhood Assist®.
Hospitals can be a scary place for anyone. Machines beeping, needles poking, the unknown. Hospitals can be especially scary for children, which is why Tracey Rankin tries to lighten the mood.
Rankin is the executive director of Happy Wheels, a nonprofit organization that provides toys and books for hospitalized children at three hospitals in South Carolina. Although their mission is on hold because of COVID-19, the organization is still working to provide happiness and a distraction for children.
“We’re all about providing a moment of kid time to enjoy non-medical time during their hospital stay. We hear a lot that the Happy Wheels cart is the only bright spot for the kids,” Rankin said. “For those couple of minutes, it takes their mind off what they are there for and lets them be a kid.”
Happy Wheels also focuses on teaching younger generations to give back and help those not as fortunate by providing volunteer service hour opportunities. High school and college students host toy drives or fundraisers for Happy Wheels, and also help Rankin write thank you notes and sort toys into each age group.
Rankin said when Happy Wheels is allowed into the hospitals, about 300-350 kids receive a toy or book a week.
“The best part is seeing the change in their faces when we tell them why we’re there,” she said. “A majority of the kids don’t know who we are, so we knock on the door and they’re skeptical. When they see the cart, the change in their faces is indescribable. The child-like joy and ability to forget everything going on – there is no other feeling like it.”
Happy Wheels received a State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant in 2019.
In its ninth year, State Farm Neighborhood Assist provides $25,000 grants to 40 nonprofits each year to help fund neighborhood improvement projects. Because of the many challenges facing our nation right now, State Farm® is removing all category requirements for submissions this year. This action will free up communities to submit causes to address their greatest needs.
The submission phase opens July 15 and ends when 2,000 submissions are reached. The State Farm Review Committee narrows the field to the Top 200 finalists using a scoring rubric. The voting phase will then take place Sept. 23-Oct. 2, when voters can vote for their favorite cause 10 times a day, every day. Finally, the 40 causes that receive the most votes will each win a $25,000 grant. Winners will be announced on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at www.neighborhoodassist.com.
"Grant programs that address community needs, like Neighborhood Assist, are more important than ever,” said Annette Martinez, State Farm Senior Vice President. “This initiative truly embodies the spirit of being a Good Neighbor.”
Last year, 163,000 people cast 4.4 million votes in support of their favorite causes, selecting winners from small towns and big cities. Since the program began, State Farm has awarded $8 million in support of more than 300 causes.
Rankin is hoping to win again this year.
“As a small nonprofit, it’s difficult to get grants. Neighborhood Assist gives us a chance to compete with the larger nonprofits,” she said. “I’ve never seen a grant process like it. I’m really grateful to State Farm.”