Thanks to Dua Vang-Ramirez for this post about helping kids with some special needs experience the fun and freedom of bicycling. Most of us take it for granted that riding a bike is a right of childhood, and thanks to Variety – the Children’s Charity of Wisconsin, and their partnership with Brent Emery, owner of Emerys Cycling, Triathlon & Fitness, the kids in this story all smiles on their faces that come with riding a bike.
Ja’Quan, 6, sat on his couch, looking out the living-room window. His brothers were riding their bicycles in the street with other children from their neighborhood. Ja’Quan wanted nothing more than to be playing with them, but because he has cerebral palsy, which limits a person’s ability to move, he could not ride a standard bicycle.
“He was so depressed,” said his mother, Latoya. She knew that if there was a way to get him moving, Ja’Quan would be able to make friends and be happy. But his family could not afford the adaptive bicycle that he needed.
Latoya turned to Variety, which bought Ja’Quan a recumbent tricycle. Now he can ride with his brothers and friends – and because pedaling the bicycle strengthens his hip muscles, he can walk short distances, such as the length of a classroom, without using a walker or needing the help of a teacher.
“His confidence has increased so much because of his bicycle,” Latoya said.
Ja’Quan is among an estimated 10,000 Wisconsin children who have physical disabilities and who do not have access to the equipment they need to move and perform basic tasks.
For a child with a physical disability, the opportunity to actively participate in a “typical” activity doesn’t come very often. And the chances of exercising in a fun way are almost nonexistent.
Variety – the Children’s Charity of Wisconsin is changing that reality by providing children with physical disabilities a fun and engaging way to exercise-bicycling! Through its Adaptive Bicycle Program, Variety provides funding for adaptive bicycles for children with physical disabilities so they can live as typical a childhood as possible. Since Variety’s Adaptive Bicycle Program began in 2009, Variety has provided more than 115 adaptive bicycles.
Riding an adaptive bicycle goes far beyond having fun and creating priceless memories. There are many benefits including physical health, cognitive development and social acceptance. Riding a bicycle helps with bone growth, strengthening of muscles, development of hand/eye coordination, breathing and blood circulation, trunk control and balance and more. It is also a great way to work on range of motion. The range of motion experienced on a bicycle carries over to make everyday tasks easier, such as dressing and bathing.
An adaptive bicycle allows a child to connect with friends, experience freedom and exhibit independence. It provides the opportunity to participate in a typical age-appropriate activity with peers, which gives a child a sense of belonging. And, being able to move and explore their world aids cognitive development.
Variety does more than just purchase bicycles for kids. Variety makes sure that each child receives a bicycle that is specifically tailored to their individual needs.
Variety partners with adaptive bicycle specialist Brent Emery, owner of Emerys Cycling, Triathlon & Fitness in Milwaukee. Brent meets with each child to conduct a custom assessment to determine the child’s abilities and unique needs.
Once the proper bicycle is determined, Variety and Brent go a step further by adding on custom adaptations, such as a larger seat, shorter handle bars, a chest harness and more. When needed components are not commercially available, Variety partners with a local manufacturer to custom build parts.
And since we live in Wisconsin, Variety also provides an indoor bicycle stand so the child can continue to use the bicycle even when the weather is not so nice.
Besides the equity work that is going on to include youth, women and people of color locally, statewide and nationally, Variety of Wisconsin is working to expand the bicycle equity work to include people who are physically disabled.
Variety will be hosting its first bike ride in October 2016, date TBD. Proceeds from this event will provide adaptive bikes for children with physical disabilities.