On first thought, you may think that ankle-foot orthotics (AFOs) cannot be “recycled,” since they are molded to custom-fit a specific child. However, donating your AFOs actually can help children in need! Some organizations modify the shape of used AFOs, fitting them to their new owners. Other organizations will recycle parts of AFOs, like metal loops and fasteners. Certain professionals may even accept orthotics for use in teaching clinics.
Although your old AFOs are plastic and completely recyclable, it is worthwhile to donate them. After all, they were expensive to obtain, and you might improve the quality of life of a child with cerebral palsy or another disability.
Ways to Donate Used AFOs
Check with your orthotist. Orthotists often use donated AFOs in teaching clinics. Even if your orthotist can’t use it, many orthotics offices will reclaim AFOs and donate them to charitable organizations such as Doctors Without Borders.
Check with your physical therapist. Physical therapists may use old AFOs for demonstrative teaching purposes, or to allow a child to “test drive” an AFO before purchasing one of their own. Your PT may also be aware of other families who need affordable orthotics.
Check with hospitals and churches. Local hospitals may be able to offer guidance about where to donate the AFO. Churches may be able to assist you in donating, as missionaries sometimes donate used orthotics to the communities where they serve. Failing that, Shriners is well-known for accepting, refitting, and donating old orthotics.
Check with local therapy centers. Many pediatric therapy or orthopedics centers accept used orthotics and have a recycling or donation program in place.
Donate to needy children in third-world countries. Still having trouble recycling your AFOs locally? Think globally! Many organizations transport used orthotics to impoverished countries and distribute them to children with disabilities. A few of these organizations include:
- The Club Foot Club collects donated AFOs for redistribution in Papua New Guinea and Uganda. You can find AFO donation information here.
- The Embraced is an Atlanta-based organization that distributes assistive mobility and prosthetic devices to needy individuals both locally and globally.
- Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita Support, Inc. runs a program called Arthrogryposis Families for Rwanda, which transports used orthotics to children in Rwanda. (They also partner with An Orphan’s Wish to provide orthotics to children in Guangxi, China.) You can mail your AFOs to:Arthrogryposis Families for Rwanda
c/o Michele Schaffer
New Albany K-1
5101 Swickard Woods Blvd.
New Albany, OH 43054
If you know of any other great AFO donation resources, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Throwing away your costly AFOs is painful – but recycling them to improve the lives of children in need feels wonderful!
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