Their faces didn’t tell the whole story, but the smiles on those 14 young faces gave away the ending. The special needs kids who showed up to East Gym were elated to receive adaptive tricycles Saturday from the Cal State Long Beach Physical Therapy Club.
“When you see a kid on a bicycle, their disability has faded. They are just like other kids in the neighborhood,” said Kathy Newton, whose son, Cooper, received one of the specially made cycles.
Cooper, 16, has cerebral palsy and his mother said the tricycle gives him a sense of freedom and confidence.
“The bike gives him a sense of control that is important at a time when his motor skills are compromised. His development is delayed but he understands bikes. All kids understand bikes.”
Noel Marie Spina, physical therapy lecturer, said for the kids, getting the tricycles is tantamount to getting their first car. It gets the moving and out in the community with other neighborhood kids.
She said her department was looking for a way to take what they learned in the classroom to the community.
“They wanted to give back,” Spina said.
The school partnered with SoCalTrykers and the Long Beach chapter of the American Business Clubs to make the event happen. Together they assembled the custom-built bikes a week earlier. Each bike meets specific mobility needs and are designed to lasts for years regardless of the recipient’s growth with various seating and support systems.
The tricycles can be expensive, costing thousands of dollars. But through a grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and the Trial Lawyers Association, the cost is reduced by roughly 40 percent.
“The bikes blur the lines when talking about disability,” Newton said. “People are more willing to approach because it’s not a wheelchair and they want to find out about the bike.”