When Cadence Flaata was born with cerebral palsy, she was never expected to be able to shuffle a deck of cards, shoot a water gun, or join her school’s archery team.
Today, the condition severely limits Cadence’s mobility and speech. But with a little help from her innovative father, Darren, the smiley Saskatchewan ten-year-old is getting the chance to garden, go fishing or sledding, and more.
Darren Flaata designs gadgets and adapts existing technology so that Cadence can use them. He’s outfitted his daughter’s wheelchair so she can sled or ride in a boat, and he’s rigged up fishing rods, water guns, and even bows and arrows so that Cadence can operate them by hitting a switch with her head.
“When she was born … she didn’t have her mobility,”Flaata told CTV Saskatoon. “So we weren’t sure what her capabilities would be.”
But as Flaata explains on his website, he was determined to help his daughter enjoy the same activities he’d grown up doing.
“Has (her cerebral palsy) stopped her or us from making sure she gets every enjoyment and every opportunity?” Flaata wrote. “NO WAY!”
Over the years, he says he’s spent countless hours researching how to design, build and adapt technology to help his daughter take part in everyday activities.
Inspired by his own childhood summers spent at Candle Lake in Saskatchewan, Flaata bought an accessible boat and tweaked an electric fishing rod so Cadence could control it. He built an accessible sandbox so Cadence could garden with her mother, and he created a “switch-accessible compound archery bow” so his daughter could join her first-ever sports team.
Earlier this month, Flaata shared a photo of Cadence grinning as she received an honourary award for her participation on the archery team. The photo’s caption read: “Adapted Archery #nolimits.”
“She can play cards like everyone else. She can go out fishing like every other kid. She enjoys going out and having fun,” Cadence’s mother, Carla, said.
Looking forward, Flaata has big plans for new gadgets to help Cadence try different activities. In a recent Facebook post, he asks if anybody might be able to donate money or parts for a dune buggy.
“I’ve got some other things in the back of my mind, in terms of utility vehicles,” he said.
In the meantime, he is selling some of his inventions through his business, Northern Lights Adaptions, and trying to raise money to fund new designs and prototypes. He is also offering to design solutions for other people with disabilities.
On his website, Flaata says his No. 1 goal isn’t to make money or patent a product, but to make his daughter smile.
“You know what my biggest payment of all is,” he wrote. “The smile on her face and showing everyone that everyone can be part of something.”