As Calgarians young and old get out to take advantage of the early summer-like weather, some youngsters face significant obstacles to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.
But a program run by the Cerebral Palsy Kids and Families organization, which modifies standard kids’ bicycles with features such as back supports and safety straps, enables children with disabilities to get out and moving.
“We can get kids who cannot lift their head off their tray, and we can have them ride a bike,” said Sheralee Stelter, the charity’s executive director.
“All we want to do is keep the kids active, keep the families out in the community.”
The program has been operating for 17 years, during which time it has grown considerably. Stelter estimates their inventory at around 450 bicycles, with 500 by year’s end.
But parents need only pay a $50 loan fee, and the kids get to keep the bike for as long as they want — usually until they outgrow it and need to upsize.
Greg and Rebecca McCrimmon were two of the parents who stopped by the adaptive bike clinic on Saturday. Their five-year-old daughter, Nicole, has hemiplegia cerebral palsy as the result of a stroke. After two years of a smaller bike with a rear handle for her parents to assist her riding, Nicole was in the market for a bigger and more independent set of wheels.
“There’s a lot of stuff she can’t do, but this adaptive bike allows her to do that,” said Greg.
Rebecca sees plenty of benefits from having an adaptive bike.
“Just that she can do things other kids are doing and feel as typical as any other kid. Doing things as a family, and feeling like she has her own bike is good for her.”
Because Nicole has weakness on the left side of her body, her bike will have a spring to re-centre the handlebars for her, letting her turn but also helping her drive straight.
Aside from the general benefits of being active, riding a bike can help with specific aspects of Nicole’s physical challenges, according to her mom.
“It helps her with co-ordination for both sides and also core strength,” said Rebecca. “She has to engage those muscles to help her balance.”
Stelter said the charity is always in need of additional money, particularly for an expensive project such as this. She is the only full-time employee, and the demand for adapted bikes still outstrips the supply.
“We probably need another $50,000,” she said. “In a perfect world. That’s what I need to make sure every kid gets a bike this year.”