Carmen George

Red wagons provide happier way to transport patients around Valley Children’s

Six-year-old Jaskaran Singh gleefully pulled a red Radio Flyer wagon transporting some precious cargo – his little brother – around a floor at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County last week.

These wagon rides are 4-year-old Arshveer Singh’s preferred method of transport around the hospital, far superior to being pushed around in a wheelchair or medical transport bed. It’s part of brother-bonding time.

“I like to play around with him in the wagon,” Jaskaran said. “I make it fast for him and he screams, ‘Too fast, too fast!’ and it makes me laugh, and I love him more than anything. He fights cancer, he gets it done, and he kicks cancer’s butt – that’s what my mom says.”

The Singhs are among many to benefit from a Dec. 3 donation of around 125 red Radio Flyer wagons to Valley Children’s, which can be used by families and nurses to transport children around the hospital. The wagons are gifts from around 25 clubs and organizations from Bakersfield to Modesto – the majority four-wheel drive clubs. Each donated wagon was also filled with toys for children at the hospital.

Lemoore’s James Mattingly, of Central Valley Crawlers, started collecting toys for Valley Children’s five years ago after visiting his nephew in the hospital around Christmas. Other members of his four-wheel drive club started collecting toys, too, and that giving spirit expanded into clubs throughout the Central Valley.

They decided to include wagons in this year’s annual donation after hearing another club donated eight wagons to the hospital. The four-wheelers decided Valley Children’s could use a lot more.

David Skaggs of Visalia, co-organizer of the collection drive, said red wagons are “an iconic part of childhood. … It’s something we can all relate to.”

Valley Children’s nurse Kendra Samuel is among the Radio Flyer fans. She said the wagon rides make children feel “less like a patient and more like a normal child.”

“Sometimes when we have time, we can pull them around the unit and it makes it fun for them,” Samuel said.

As Jaskaran transported his wagon-bound little brother last week, Arshveer clutched a new Batman doll, one of the many toys donated by the four-wheel drive clubs. The 4-year-old Fresno boy has been in and out of chemotherapy treatments, but as his big brother wheeled him around, the hospital was suddenly “fun.”

Arshveer said he felt “happy.”

So was his mother, Navpreet Singh, as she watched her boys play together.

“It’s like my home,” she said of Valley Children’s. “I’m really comfortable here, that’s how they make you feel.”

Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge