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Mini Tesla helps improve mobility for patients at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands

Melisa and Albert Dion

There’s a shiny, red mini Tesla at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, and it’s helping children who are receiving physical, occupational and speech therapy. The Tesla Model S electric car — a miniature version of a full-size Tesla — was generously donated by Melisa and Albert Dion.

The Dions are strong advocates of the mission of Texas Children’s. Through Melisa’s involvement in Mothers Against Cancer, she has helped raise money that benefits Texas Children’s Cancer Center. Albert, who has suffered with a lifelong autoimmune disease and cancer, is passionate about finding a cure for children who have similar conditions. In 2015, the Dions made a wonderful gift to support the construction of our new hospital in The Woodlands.

The Dions’ gift of the mini Tesla came about in a rather unexpected way. Last August, their Kingwood home flooded during Hurricane Harvey, forcing them to be rescued by boat from the second floor. In addition to losing many of their cherished belongings, they also lost their two Teslas. They decided to replace one of them, and as a thank you, the Tesla company invited them to choose a special gift. The Dions picked the mini Tesla with Texas Children’s in mind.

“I thought it was a wonderful use for this; and if it could help a child, my goodness!” – Melisa Dion

The mini Tesla is being used at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands as a fun way to motivate children who are receiving therapy for an injury or chronic health condition such as cerebral palsy. One patient is a 5-year-old boy with rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of muscle cancer.

“Our goal is to improve his walking,” said Jay Mennel, manager of therapy. “His right ankle is weak from his tumor, but if he walks one or two laps, he gets to drive the Tesla the same amount.”

Mennel enjoys watching the children as they drive the mini Tesla around the therapy department, and he is thankful to the Dions for their gift.

“I want the Dions to know that our patients absolutely love the mini Tesla,” said Mennel. “The best part is that I can hear our patients driving it while I’m in my office. They have big smiles on their faces and are always so happy.”

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