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21Country: The inspiration behind CapeAble Sensory Products

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - "Millie is our hard, beautiful miracle."

Marna Pacheco and her family first met their daughter nearly 13 years ago.

Millie, was just a few months old when the Pacheco family started the adoption process.

While the journey has been rewarding for everyone, it hasn't been without its challenges.

"When you are trying to love a child, and mother a child who has never received that," Marna explained, "it feels chaotic and foreign and unsafe."

The Pacheco family has worked with Millie to help her cope with neglect in her past, a cleft lip and palate, and brain trauma.

Early on, daily tasks like trips to the grocery store weren't always possible.

"We would go into the Target store, and the overwhelming sensory overload that she would have didn't allow her to function in a way that people thought was normal if you will," Marna told us, "ant that overwhelmingness stopped us from participating in life a lot of times."

She began searching for ways to comfort her daughter in public.

On the advice of Millie's therapist, she started researching weighted blankets.

But they didn't quite work out at first.

Then Marna tried a weighted lap pad.

That too would shift and fall.

Shortly after, Marna developed what would be the first product behind her business CapeAble.

A pink, weighted cape provided her daughter just what she needed to make those trips to Target bearable.

For the Pacheco family, it was life changing.

"We get to the checkout, and the checkout lady goes, 'well look at that pretty little princess in her pink cape!' Someone noticed my daughter, before they noticed her behavior," Marna explained, "I felt like someone saw my child for the first time, in all her beauty, in all her gloriousness that is Millie."

But the idea didn't go anywhere for several years.

Eventually, Marna launched CapeAble, with an appeal towards consumers looking for a variety of weighted products.

"I was the mother of a special needs child, and I really didn't have any time," Marna said, "it actually sat on a shelf for several years until the story changed. Here we are today now, a USA women-owned manufacturer."

It later caught the attention of medical professionals like nurses and dentists who wanted to make patients more comfortable during their appointments.

Sometimes Marna looks back, surprised at what she's accomplished with her daughter by her side.

"We often say here, 'If we did all the things we were capable of, we would literally astonish ourselves'," Marna told us, "and my daughter astonishes me every single day."

A lot of time has passed since those first trips to Target.

Millie is now a teenager, and her life continues to defy the expectations of her past.

"I believe that our daughter's purpose is to change the world," Marna continued, "and to touch the world in a way that allows people to feel capable and worthy of life."

"What's amazing about my daughter is she’s gloriously Millie. She gets to be all she’s supposed to be. What looks like it isn’t a normal path, or typical to help somebody, she is touching thousands of lives because she inspired something to make me look deeper at who she was as a human, and to value life, and to help her succeed. And now that inspiration is touching other peoples lives.”

But what about the science behind products like weighted blankets?

Do they really decrease feelings of anxiety and stress?

In 2018, Parkview Hospital launched a study led by RN Jaime Vinson testing how weighted blankets (CapeAble products were used in the study) impacted cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

Research showed it did help reduce anxiety, but the weight of the patient or the blanket didn't matter as much as the "deep pressure touch".

Instead, what seemed to help patients the most was the ounce-per-square inch of weight the blanket delivered.

For more information on that study, click here.

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out:

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