Wrap Buddies

by Kathryn Whitaker, PreemieBabies101 Lead Blogger

Tommy Strader with Luke

Photo credit: Whitaker Family

In 2010, when our son was fitted for a helmet to correct his plagiocephaly and brachycephaly, we were thrilled to learn of a non-profit, located in Dallas, that wrapped orthotic helmets for free.  Each month 360 Wraps, a for-profit business, closes their shop and opens it to parents and kids, like our son, to wrap about 15 helmets.  For us, the atmostphere was festive, welcoming and understanding as we made connections with other parents facing a similar situation.

Tommy Strader wrapping a helmet

Photo credit: Whitaker Family

However, as the owner, Tommy Strader (who still personally wraps every helmet!) started working on the first helmet, he began to tell us the story of how Wrap Buddies was born.  It was his witness and his easy-going candor that left the room speechless, sprinkled with bits of laughter.

In 2009, a father contacted 360 Wraps and asked if they would wrap his son’s helmet. Tommy had never heard of plagiocephaly, but decided it couldn’t be much different than wrapping a motorcycle helmet.  He typically charges $300-$1,000, but when he learned of the out-of-pocket cost to purchase the orthosis, sometimes as high as $4,000, he gifted the helmet to this father and his son.  News spread like wildfire and the shop started getting numerous calls a day.

Wrap BuddiesThrough some trial and error, the shop implemented a system, set up a website and established an official non-profit, Wrap Buddies.  They’ve wrapped over 300 helmets, to date.  More than 42 shops in 23 states offer helmet wraps for free or discounted costs because of Tommy and 360 Wraps.  His outreach has expanded beyond just helmets, as they’ve wrapped prosthetic limb and back orthoses, as well.

“I like to help out the underdog, as I feel in many ways I have been the underdog, and have overcome many obstacles to get to where I am and feel it necessary to pay it forward,” says Tommy. Read his full story.

Super Luke

NICU Reunion, Family Celebration, Hand to Hold Birthday, Photo Contest

Luke W. ~ Super Hero Alias: Super Luke

LukeAge: 13 months
Weight at Birth: 3 lbs 9 oz
Weeks Gestation: 36 weeks, 3 days
Time in the NICU: 44 days

Diagnosis, complications, surgeries?
Luke was initially diagnosed as an IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction) baby – he just did not grow well in utero.  After birth, we discovered two heart defects, PDA and VSD, a pelvic kidney, bilateral arachnoid brain cysts and a tethered spinal cord.  Our biggest complicating factor?  Developing a severe surgical case of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) on day nine.  Most recently, he was diagnosed with plagiocephaly and brachycephaly, hence the reason for his awesome Aggie football helmet!

Why should your child be recognized as “Preemie of the Year”?

Luke is a fighter.  Luke is a miracle.  Luke is complicated.  Luke is a stinker.  Luke is an inspiration.  Even after all the setbacks with his additional diagnoses, he just kept making slow and steady progress.  After NICU discharge we thought we were in the clear!  Then, in the span of seven months, we returned to Dell Children’s for four more surgeries and a total of seven hospital stays.  Through the past year, we have grown into more compassionate parents to our own children, and others who have special needs. I hope Luke’s scars never fade away, they are a reminder of how far we’ve come.

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