Dozens came out for the first All Abilities Fair on Saturday to support children, adults and seniors living with any type of disability.
Held at First Baptist Church on Park Street, the event was organized by All Blessings Flow, a local faith-based, nonprofit organization founded to collect, refurbish and redistribute medical equipment free of charge to those in need in Charlottesville, Albemarle and surrounding counties.
Occupational therapist Annie Dodd and her husband, Doug, started All Blessings Flow a few years ago after her mother died as a way to help others who might need medical equipment but can’t afford it. To someone in need, the equipment can be life-changing, Annie Dodd said, and even folks with insurance can’t always get what they need.
“We give away hundreds of medical items a week, some of them small things like pill organizers and others much larger, like walkers or hospital beds,” she said. “These are items that can make the lives of someone living with a disability so much easier.”
In the years since they started All Blessings Flow, the Dodds said they have helped more than 5,000 people get medical equipment, with some folks coming to them from as far away as Williamsburg.
At Saturday’s fair, the Dodds helped to organize more than 40 exhibitors, a raffle, entertainment for children and performances from members of the St. Anne’s-Belfield School orchestra.
Among the vendors was Deb Shapiro, who founded Camping for All to increase camping opportunities for people with special needs. Shapiro, who operates the program solo, said she founded it with the intention of helping campers with disabilities find places and methods to camp.
“Parents can come up and say, ‘I have a child who is interested in going to camp and doing so and so. What is available and what kind of support systems do they have?’” Shapiro said.
Other exhibitors offered information and products related to hospice care, wheelchairs, hearing devices, specially designed glasses and other products and services intended to make the lives of people with disabilities easier.
Susan Martin, a volunteer for All Blessings Flow, said she got involved after caring for one of her parents later in life.
“After a parent or someone else that you’re caring for passes, the medical equipment just sits in a basement gathering dust,” she said. “The philosophy is, if you’ve been blessed to be able to afford the equipment and you can pass that blessing on to those in need, why not do so?”
The Dodds said they hope to make the All Abilities Fair an annual event and perhaps even expand it if interest grows. They also hope to expand their operations into other area localities, such as Louisa and Nelson counties, to help those who can’t travel to the Charlottesville area.
All Blessings Flow is in the Riverside Center at 2335 Seminole Lane, Suite 2000. Those interested in donating or volunteering can call (434) 422-8888.