You Can Ride Two – Volunteers in Edmonton Pitch In to Help Special Needs Kids Ride their First Bike
Ah—that feeling of riding your first bike. Such an amazing sense of freedom, and accomplishment as you whiz down the street with friends—there’s just nothing like it.
But for some kids who have physical and developmental challenges, regular bikes just don’t cut it. But thanks to a special organization, these kids can experience the joy of cycling too.
You Can Ride Two is an organization founded by an occupational therapist that is dedicated to adapting bicycles for kids with disabilities. In some cases, kids who can’t even walk are able to cycle with certain adaptations and modifications made to their bike.
The organization is hard at work to fit over 100 children with adaptive bicycles this spring. Those kids will keep the bikes until the fall. The cost to families is scaled based on the family’s financial situation, though most families pay about $100 to rent the bikes for the summer. The demand for bikes is much greater than the supply, and each year there are more applications every year than the organization can fill.
Urban Systems Team Members Pitch In At Bike Fitting
A small team from the Urban Systems Foundation volunteered at You Can Ride Two’s fitting one weekend this past April and were blown away by the good work the organization is doing in the Capital Region.
“Basically, this organization is amazing,” says Kirstin Pacheco, an Urban Design Specialist, who volunteered along with Anne Huizinga, a Planner, at the weekend event. “It’s not a service that anyone else is providing in our area. On the weekend we saw all these different kids and families come through and get fitted for these great bikes. The bikes are adapted to suit each kid specially, from having specific handles, pedals, seats and more. Every kid is unique and every bike they adapt is unique for that kid.”
Kirstin’s role at the event was to do an exit survey with families after their child had been fitted with a bike by a team of OTs and bike mechanics. She says the stories the parents told her were incredibly heartwarming.
“I was almost brought to tears several times. One woman in particular stands out in my memory, her 16 year old son with down syndrome had just been fitted with his first bike ever, and she told me that she was so excited for him, that he always sees the neighbourhood children outside riding their bikes together and that now he can go join them for the first time in his life. It was emotional and really special.”
Other tasks that volunteers took on ran the gamut from transporting bikes, helping with inventory, payments (families rent the bikes at a highly discounted rate for the season), helping to adapt and fit the bikes, and more. Janine Halayko, organizer of the program, explains that many families can’t afford to buy adapted bicycles, which can typically run up to a cost of $6,000.
Janine is a full time physiotherapist for the local school district and devotes another 30 hours or so a week to You Can Ride Too. She says that volunteers like Kirstin and her team at Urban Systems are what make the program run so smoothly.
“We’re really excited about working with the folks at Urban Systems. Each volunteer brings their own skill set, and with the people from Urban we get this really great engineering and design connection. We’ve got so many little projects going on and the more great connections like this we can make, the better we can support the kids who are accessing this program.”
You Can Ride Two is the only organization of its kind in Edmonton and Alberta. Urban Foundation volunteers feel that there’s so much potential to support vibrant communities by partnering with them.
“I love the work that’s happening here. I’m so looking forward to seeing what we can do together in the future,” says Kirstin.
In addition to the staff volunteers from Urban Systems, the Urban Systems Foundation was proud to also donate $1500 that went towards the purchase of a special bike for one lucky little boy.
Read more about the history of You Can Ride Two