Aanand Mehta was a fan of music from an early age. He’s played the cello for six years and has sung Indian classical music for nearly 12 years. In high school, his love for music met volunteerism, and now the high school junior is changing lives for kids with developmental disorders.
Aanand was first introduced to rehabilitation therapy for children with developmental disorders at the Neurologic Music Therapy Services of Arizona in 2019. In time, his inspiration turned into an idea to start his own organization. Two years later, he co-founded Magical Motors with his cousin who was building toy cars for kids with disabilities during an Eagle Scout project.
Together, the team rewires toy cars to be drivable for kids between the ages of three and eight. They make them easier to navigate with hand controls instead of foot pedals, and even install harnesses, remote controls and back support — anything and everything to make a child’s car accessible and fun.
In addition to renovating toy cars, Aanand’s Magical Motors has a mission to spread its program to high schools across the nation with the goal of supporting volunteerism and STEM education. Aanand developed curriculum and materials to help anyone become a successful car builder.
Aanand had one goal in mind when he co-founded Magical Motors: create an inclusive community where every child has the right to mobility. He asked himself two questions after researching technologies to overcome mobility barriers. First, what if he couldn’t move on his own? And secondly, how would his life be affected?
“These questions really pushed me to bring movement to kids and I decided that I’ll do whatever it takes to make that possible,” Aanand said.
“We started finding like-minded people that also create assistive technologies, so a large part of our process is collaboration,” said Aanand. “Making connections with STEM organizations just helps further our mission to spread mobility to all children.”
One of the first steps in remodeling toy cars for kids is the Magical Motors big red button. When kids press the button, it acts as a foot pedal accelerator. The car is then much easier to start and stop for kids who may not be able to use their legs.
One of Aanand’s favorite memories with Magical Motors was in December of 2021 when he met the organization’s first car recipient, 4-year-old Ollie, whose lower spine wasn’t completely developed. Aanand helped build a red McLaren car for Ollie’s Christmas. Ollie told Aanand that it was the best Christmas present ever.
“It’s rewarding moments like these that make the experience totally worth it,” Aanand said. “His mom told me that he can’t stop driving the car.”
“Magical Motors has given my son the freedom to play like a child,” said Demi Porter, Ollie’s mom. “Having the opportunity to play without restrictions is one of the greatest gifts we have ever been given and my son’s face lights up when he’s driving his car. I can truly see how happy he is.”
As Aanand enters his junior year in high school, he remains passionate about continuing this service throughout college. He plans to spread Magical Motors throughout other high schools across the country and aims to raise $25,000 to build 100 cars over the next two years. Outside of Magical Motors, Aanand is interested in going into the healthcare field to become a physician.
Aanand knows that operating and maintaining a nonprofit can be strenuous work, but believes that it’s established himself as a responsible and organized leader. He’s learned that service is invaluable to making connections and coming out of his shell.
This August, Aanand is hosting a build-event for Magical Motors with the Si Se Puede Foundation where cars will be donated to kids in need. He plays to host additional build-events in September and October. Aanand says that anyone can help build, even people without engineering experience, as long as they follow safety precautions and take the building instructions seriously. He continues to encourage other students to start a Magical Motors club at their school.
Aanand also hosted a TEDx Talk later July to talk about Magical Motors and how the act of volunteering makes a difference in people’s lives.
“It’s important for others to contribute their talents to make a tangible difference in people’s lives and to mold a more equitable and inclusive community,” Aanand said.
“Participating in a bigger cause will allow someone to make a more amplified difference in their community and if they continue to foster volunteering, they’ll be able to merge their interests with service, which is the best,” he added.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Aanand? Find local volunteer opportunities.