Mom Invents Special Coat So Daughter with Cerebral Palsy Can Play Outside: ‘I Saved Recess’

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By Char Adams,

Zoey Harrison, now 9, was ready to give up on recess last year. Zoey uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy and has a temperature intolerance, so it takes her a long time to bundle up before heading outside to play.

“She came home last year and said, ‘I’m done. I’m not going to recess anymore. I don’t even want to try to go out anymore,’ ” Zoey’s mom, Jennifer Harrison, recalls to PEOPLE. “I asked why and she said, ‘Either I put a blanket on and I cover up with my poncho and I’m freezing cold, or I spend the entire recess getting ready.”

”‘We get out there and the bell rings. So I don’t even get out onto the cement to see my friends,’ ” Jennifer, of Ithaca, Michigan, continues. “She said, ‘Can’t you make me something?’ “

So that’s what Jennifer, 42, did. After searching online, Jennifer wasn’t able to find any coat that would be easy for Zoey to quickly get into. She ended up purchasing two purple jackets from a local department store and sewing them together.

“We needed something that was fast and warm, that would cover her whole body,” Jennifer says. The mom of 11 crafted the coat and attached it to Zoey’s wheelchair. She says Zoey was speechless when she saw her mother’s creation.

“She cried and hugged me. She wore it all day! She wanted to wear it to bed,” Jennifer tells PEOPLE of Zoey, noting that she was soon able to enjoy recess. “She came home and she was in such a good mood. She was able to go out for the entire recess and she was so happy.”

In 2017, Jennifer shared a Facebook video of the coat, originally intending to only show Zoey’s school helper. To the family’s surprise, the footage quickly went viral and has been viewed 11 million times — and counting.

About a year later, Zoey has several styles of the coat and the family has launched X-Ability, selling the outerwear to families in need. They opened the shop last month and have sold more than 300 coats (which also come with mittens and hand-warmers).

“I’m overwhelmed. I see all these pictures of families and children and adults using them and they are just elated,” Jennifer gushes. “They love it. The response has been absolutely amazing and positive.”

But most of all, Jennifer says she’s happy to see Zoey living a full life.

“Zoey’s a very happy girl. She’s funny, she loves to tell jokes and play jokes on people,” Jennifer gushes of Zoey, adding that she’s “sassy.” “She loves to go out and be around people, she’s definitely a people person. She has a great sense of humor. She’s such a good kid.”

As for Zoey, the little girl told WZZM that she’s thankful her passion for recess led to the invention.

“I saved recess for myself and a million other people!” she told the station.

For more information about staying warm in a wheelchair from the experts at X-Ability, please contact us here.

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