Reese was born in August 2019 to loving parents, Samantha and Matt. Her parents were not certain she would have a long life. Among the multiple health challenges, she was diagnosed with epilepsy and a brain-based visual impairment. Luckily her parents were able to utilize the services of the Arizona Early Intervention Program (AzEIP) to gain ongoing access to physical, speech, feeding, vision and hearing therapy.


Shortly after she was born, Matt noticed Reese became calmer and content when music was playing – and the louder and faster the better! As she grew, her love of music began to include lots of movement and bouncing when certain songs played, but her weight become a barrier to Samantha and Matt’s ability to hold her for extended periods of time.

Through their existing therapies, they learned about Southwest Human Development’s ADAPT Shop as a resource to find seating support that would allow Reese to sit independently to reach and activate toys. The ADAPT shop team gathered the precise measurements they needed to create a custom seat for Reese and that was just finished in December.

During one of their visits to the ADAPT Shop, Matt and Samantha began to explore the equipment available for loan that might offer both movement and stability for Reese. The family began to try a gait trainer that included a harnessed seat for Reese to sit in for support as she learned to move her feet and legs, in hopes she may one day walk.


Their occupational therapist, Beth Rank, asked if they would be interested in letting Reese be the inspiration for Southwest Human Development’s 2022 MAKERS of Change Assistive Technology Challenge. They were open to that idea in hopes that the high school teams involved might create a solution to benefit Reese and other children like her.


After learning about Reese, and even meeting Samantha and Reese virtually, more than 300 students enthusiastically ideated and created prototypes for a gait trainer that not only assisted with independent movement but included bright colored shapes and music selections to keep her occupied. The true highlight of the Challenge proved to be meeting Reese in person. Samantha and Reese attended a presentation of final solutions and received thunderous applause when entering the room.


The ideas and prototypes are not ready for actual use and will take years of fine tuning to possibly come to fruition, but by learning about and eventually meeting Reese, the students involved learned what it means to engineer with heart.


Reese is now four and Samantha and Matt continue to plan for her future. Their experiences with Reese have led them to consider creating a nonprofit that would come alongside families with severely disabled children to create a home environment in which they can flourish with fun and adaptable toys and equipment.


Reese has achieved the ability to sit upright without the support of her parents and she has learned to activate an adapted car toy. Despite the challenges of everyday life, the family has embraced these small miracles and will keep blasting those tunes to move forward.