BETTENDORF, Iowa — Local nonprofit Clubfoot Solutions is providing braces to Ukrainian children in need, free of charge as the war continues to impact families across the country. The braces are worn by children born with the genetic deformity clubfoot until they're about 4 years old.
Nonprofit lead Todd Becker said they've been sending the braces to Ukraine since 2016. When the war started, their contact on the ground overseas made it clear they needed to continue supplying the braces.
"He came to us and said, 'Hey, we need to continue to get the braces for the children that are still in Ukraine. Because their feet are growing,'" Becker explained. "Obviously they want to stay in their treatment program, because what happens. Let's say that the child goes out of the brace and their feet will start to curl back in — the whole process starts over again."
The brace was developed at the University of Iowa back in the 1950s. Since then it's been adopted as the standard brace for treating clubfoot.
"It's a very simple design. It's two shoes, though each shoe becomes detached from the bar. The bar clicks in from that fashion there," Becker said. "There is an AFL liner inside the shoe and the brace is set at 60 degrees for clubfoot and then the normal foot, if there's a normal foot, goes to 30 degrees."
The shoes are worn by kids in need anytime they're sleeping. During the day they take the brace off and are free to move around to build up muscle in their feet and ankles.
"They kind of call them their 'night-night shoes.' You know, which is just kind of neat. The parents kind of call them that. There are about 200,000 babies born every year with clubfoot throughout the world," Becker said.
Becker's supplier on the ground in Ukraine has taken up arms and is ready to fight in his hometown if it comes to it. On top of that, he continues to connect the kids in his care to the braces, focusing on areas that have been heavily attacked by Russia.
"He's trying to make sure if they're getting displaced from their homes, that those children have the braces that they need because we don't know how long they're going to be displaced," Becker said.
Each brace costs about $25 to make. Through shipping costs and mark-ups, the braces are usually sold in other countries for around $75. Right now, they're entirely free in Ukraine.
"Obviously they have to mark it up because of the shipping costs and that type of stuff. But typically it's under $75 in our lower resource countries, for those families," Becker said. "We're taking care of shipping everything to him. And we'll do that as long as we need to until Ukraine is back on its feet."
Clubfoot Solutions is taking donations on their website to help continue offering the braces free of charge in Ukraine. You can donate to the cause here.
There are also photos and information on the kids directly being impacted by Clubfoot Solutions.