Spotlight on support: Toadally Therapeutic Community Store
West Fargo mom Meghan Dahnke behind the marketplace for secondhand goods for children with autism
Meghan Dahnke has always had a touch of clairvoyance.
Before her son was born in 2013, Dahnke knew that now seven-year-old Broden was going to be special. Four years later, Dahnke’s maternal hunch proved true when Broden was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. “He changed my life before I even knew it. I knew that he was going to have autism. I had a gut feeling that there was going to be something special about him,” she told The Forum.
The West Fargo mother of four recently launched Toadally Therapeutic Community Store, an online marketplace for second-hand goods for children with autism. The store is named after Broden’s nickname, “Brody Toady”, which was inspired by the frog-like pose he uses to soothe himself.
“The whole business idea just hit me like an epiphany three or four months ago and I just went for it,” Dahnke said.Dahnke is well-versed in the struggles parents of children with autism face when they first receive the diagnosis. The diagnosis, she explained, only puts a name on the condition.
“It was a difficult process because it’s a blind task,” she said of Broden’s diagnosis. “Nobody tells you what to do. You think after getting a diagnosis that you’re going to finally have the answers that are going to lead the way. It’s far from it.”
Autism cases vary from person to person, meaning each individual requires a tailored solution when it comes to therapeutic items. For that, Dahnke turned to Sanford, which offers what she described as a “library checkout” for equipment.However, the long wait times for items, Dahnke said, made the process of finding answers time-consuming and frustrating. She can count hours spent in Sanford waiting rooms to get equipment, only to return home and find Broden hated something, like a weighted vest she once borrowed.
Inspired by that experience, Dahnke said Toadally Therapeutic will buy back any equipment a child doesn’t like to ensure parents can find the specific solution for their child without being tied down.
“I just knew there was nothing like this in the community and I wanted to start something like this,” she said. “There are so many of us that are struggling, and I just kind of wanted to pay it forward to that next mom that’s sitting in that waiting room.”
Finding secondhand equipment for children with autism in the Red River Valley is a tall order. It has meant several trips to the Twin Cities, where she has had more luck finding specialty goods. She also scrounges thrift stores and Facebook for bargains and things people don’t even know they have.
Her business is currently too small for wholesale operations, only adding to the challenge of sourcing stock. Her goal is to bring in 20 new items a month, which translates to a lot of turning over rocks to find goods, and that’s just to keep up with demand.
Toadally Therapeutic is as much an online marketplace as it is a way for parents of children with autism in the area to connect.Dahnke said she’s learned a lot in just a few short months while working with other parents and therapists in the area. It helps that she can relate to the grocery store meltdowns or other trials parents face.
“It’s heartwarming to have these individuals open up to me about their struggles,” she said. “It’s brought me closer to many different individuals and understanding that it’s not a one-size-fits-all (solution).”
Learn more at https://toadallytherapeutic.com/ .