Making a Difference: Free adaptive bicycles provide freedom for special needs children


With central Pa seeing the last of 70-degree weather for a while, many folks are bringing in the bicycles.

But, for several families with special needs children there is no bike to bring in.

That all changed on October 31st, thanks to a children's charity that is making a difference with a free set of wheels.

It was "Christmas on Halloween" at the Capital Area Intermediate Unit in Dauphin County. Eight local children with disabilities received the gift of freedom and independence, thanks to adaptive bikes given to them through Variety - The Children's Charity "My Bike" program.

"When you get the diagnosis and they tell you all the things he can't do, to actually then have something that they're wrong about," said Kristin Brown, of Hanover.

That diagnosis for Kristin's son Max is Angelman Syndrome, a genetic disorder causes developmental delays and neurological problems.

Max was one of the children to get a bike specifically customized to his needs. His mom and brothers proudly watched knowing the bike will allow them all to ride together.

Kristin said, "A lot of times we feel like we're not outside as much because there's not much for him to do. But with the bike, he'll be able to ride his bike through the community and neighborhood and he'll actually get to know other kids in the neighborhood that way."

Since Variety's “My Bike” program started in 2012, more than 1,200 Rifton adaptive bikes have been given away. At a cost of $1,800 a piece, that adds up to more than $2 million in bicycles.

There are eligibility requirements based on disability and income.

And since Variety may not be well known, the children's charity partners with an agency in the area, in this case the Capital Area Intermediate Unit, to help identify children and provide a familiar location to hold the bike giveaway.

But, before the kids can get on the bike, the families take a safety pledge and go through a tutorial.

Charles LaVallee, Variety CEO, said, "Kids who were never expected to ride a bike are gonna ride a bike today and their parents are gonna see it, grandma's gonna see it! So, it's a day of great joy to see kids do something they never thought they'd be able to do."

For Danalynn Togans and her 5 year old son Amari, who has several issues including trouble walking, the bike is giving them both freedom.

Danalynn said, "I don't have anything at home for him to even do, his toys he gets very bored with so this is a milestone for the bike to get help so he can go do something, finally on his own, even though we help him steer the wheels and all that, it'll be something he can do by himself."

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