Local child to receive life-changing robotic walker

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 10, 2021

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LAPLACE — Just shy of 7 years old, Imani Soniat eagerly awaits the opportunity to take her first steps. Cerebral palsy and other health conditions have caused her to be totally reliant on the left side of her body, but that could change once she becomes the first child in Louisiana to receive Trexo Robotic Walker technology.

The robotics portion of the walker is estimated for delivery in August. The technology was born in 2011 when founder Manmeet Maggu learned his nephew was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. According to Trexo Robotics, the system can be customized to help children walk by supporting their unique needs for weight bearing, gait pattern, speed and level of assist.

Imani and her mother, Angel Tutt-Soniat, dove headfirst into fundraising last year since the robotic walker comes with a price tag of $29,900 and is not covered by insurance. With an outpouring of help from the community, they were able to raise more than $10,000 toward the walker.
“Even though this is less than half for the purchase, I have decided to do the lease option for one year with hopes to raise the remaining balance throughout the next year to purchase,” Tutt-Soniat said.

She plans to pass the device along to other children in need once Imani is walking on her own two feet.

Tutt-Soniat said fundraising efforts have consisted of several pop-up shops, lemonade stands and lip gloss sales. The pursuit of health and wealth-related goals led her to form a local Facebook group called “Goal Digging Sistahz,” which has grown to include more than 1,100 followers from the River Parishes and beyond.

According to Tutt-Soniat, many of the “Sistahz” have met up for workouts at Planet Fitness and walks at the Thomas F. Daley Park on Highway 51. In April, they created a jump rope challenge that caught fire and spread far beyond Louisiana.

The health goals are linked to a good cause. The group is currently participating in the 33-mile challenge for Cerebral Palsy and selling $15 T-Shirts to go toward Imani’s Trexo Walker.

Imani will ride her specialized bike to help kick off a two-mile walk around the Thomas F. Daley Park at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 25. Tutt-Soniat hopes to raise awareness for cerebral palsy and educate the public on how its impacts can range from mild to severe.

“My life journey is around cerebral palsy. I want to be an advocate,” Tutt-Soniat said. “My whole goal in the River Parishes is to get everyone involved because I want to see if the community can help create inclusion not just for people with cerebral palsy, but for people with other disabilities as well.”

The community can contribute by buying the $15 T-shirts or donating to Imani’s GoFundMe at www.gofundme.com/f/miss-piggy-walking-journey.

Another fundraiser will include a Mommie and Me Luncheon to be held Aug. 29 at “The Grand” event facility at 542 Belle Terre Blvd. in LaPlace. More details will be forthcoming.

While even leasing the Trexo technology is very expensive, Tutt-Soniat said it will all be worth it in the end.

“I have five kids, and stretching yourself thin by paying $1,000 for a lease every month is kind of expensive, but I feel like I have no other choice. I want this for my daughter. This is her dream, and I’m going to support her 110%,” Tutt-Soniat said.

For more information on how to support Imani’s walking journey, please call 504-520-9443.