GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Riding a bike is a treasured childhood experience, but many children with disabilities miss out on this opportunity.
Members of a nonprofit group called Friendship Circle work to provide the experience, joy and independence of riding a special bike.
“It’s way exciting. We can go for walks, and he doesn’t have to be pushed in a wheelchair,” Debi Kleinsmith said.
It’s a dream come true for Kleinsmith and her two grandchildren, Aiyana and Jonavyn Mitchell. Aiyana, 5, will finally have a play date, and Jonavyn will be receiving his new adaptive bicycle soon.
“My brother is the best in the whole wide world,” Aiyana said.
Kleinsmith has been taking care of her grandchildren since birth. Jonavyn, 7, was born addicted to several different drugs.
“He had a stroke in the womb that caused a brain bleed, and from that, he got hydrocephalus. He has a shunt,” Kleinsmith said.
Jonavyn is also legally blind and has cerebral palsy. He’s already had seven brain surgeries. He can’t walk, but he can ride a bike. He practices while at school, but having one at home will open up new paths.
“It’s really a dream come true. We’re talking about kids that are stuck in their wheelchairs. Their siblings are running out on their bikes because what child at six or seven years old is not excited to go out on their two-wheeler and ride around the neighborhood or go to parks and our kids with special needs are stuck at home. All of a sudden, they get to be part of it,” Bassie Shemtov said, founder of Friendship Circle.
The Great Bike Giveaway has been going on since last month. The annual event gifts adaptive bikes to children with special needs. Here are ways a child can receive a bike:
- A child with the most votes will automatically get a bike.
- If a child receives at least 50 votes, they will be entered into a raffle for a bike.
- Children can setup fundraising platforms through the organization’s website to raise money.
It’s all to make sure families don’t have to come out of pocket for the expense.
After nine brain surgeries and countless physical therapies, Kleinsmith wouldn’t even be able to pay for a special bike for her grandson. But, unfortunately, it’s the reality that many families face, as it’s also something most insurance companies don’t pay for.
“These are ranging anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000,” Shemtov said.
With help from her Facebook friends list and community, Kleinsmith is one person of many who has raised more than their goal. The excess will now go to other families still working toward theirs.
It’s an amazing opportunity for these children and why Shemtov hopes the community will get involved to make a child’s dream come true.
“Find those kids and start promoting it. Every dollar counts. This is something that is literally giving a child a new sense of freedom,” Shemtov said.
She hopes people will adopt children with special needs in their neighborhoods. To give or vote for a child, click here.