Not many kids can lay claim to their own BMW convertible sports car.

Whangārei 1-year-old boy Eli Barnes can. His is red, has a personalised number plate and is fully customised to meet his needs.

Eli has a type of neuromuscular disease which is yet to be diagnosed. He has severe muscle weakness. He has difficulty swallowing liquid and has a feeding port, but can eat solid food orally.

"He has weakness everywhere, but it's more obvious in his arms and legs," mum Jessica Barnes said.

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The red BMW convertible comes complete with a personalised plate. Photo/Tania Whyte
The red BMW convertible comes complete with a personalised plate. Photo/Tania Whyte

She said the car is the first step for Eli's own mobility.

"He can't sit up from lying down and he can't crawl. This must be quite freeing for him."

"He's in control of stopping and starting and he's never had that before."

Dad Grayson Barnes said the ability for a child to move is often taken for granted and the car gives Eli some sense of control about his movement.

"He feels like he's getting somewhere when he wants too, it's huge."

Eli doesn't have enough strength to drive the car using a pedal, but a big red button on the steering wheel is all he needs to take off.

Grayson and Jessica Barnes with son Eli and his BMW car which will help him with his mobility. Photo/Tania Whyte
Grayson and Jessica Barnes with son Eli and his BMW car which will help him with his mobility. Photo/Tania Whyte

The car has a horn, plays music, which can be loaded into it, and has working headlights.

Eli's pram chair clips into the car, which also has doors that open and close.

Jessica said being a racing car, it attracts other kids to him who are interested and allows him to be involved, rather than a "big wheelchair looking device" which could leave him isolated.

The car runs on a battery which charges overnight. It is remote controlled, so Grayson can override Eli's controls.

His parents said Eli loves cars and is interested in how things work.

"He loves it. We charge it in the dining room at home and every time he sees it he laughs or smiles," Jessica said.

The flash red BMW was dropped off to Eli last Sunday and he's been for four rides so far.

Jessica said the family now plan to do the Hatea Loop with Eli in his car and his older brother on his bike.

The car was provided to the family free of charge by GoBabyGo, an initiative which provides electric cars to children who have limited mobility. The Barnes' applied for a car after being referred to GoBabyGo by their neurologist.

GoBabyGo spokeswoman Jacqui Madelin said the whole operation is run by volunteers - who put the cars together and carry out adaptations - and fundraising. Rotary branches and BMW are their main funders - hence the BMW badge on the car.

There are currently 221 children with cars around New Zealand, including two in Northland - Eli and a boy in Kaitāia.

She said they have seen some children improve "quicker or in unexpected ways because there in something fun".

Each car costs around $1500 to provide, and can go to children aged from 18 months to around seven. Once a child grows out of the car, they give it back to GoBabyGo who remove the adaptations and sell it as a used toy to help fund the next car.

If you want to help GoBabyGo, you can donate at: https://givealittle.co.nz/org/gobabygonz