Gina Morgan was all smiles July 12 while watching her daughter, Charlotte, 6, who has cerebral palsy, sitting on a bike customized for her during the ninth annual Bike Day at Beaumont Health Center.
“Up until this, she just sat in the baby seat attached to the bike,” Morgan, from Bloomfield Township, said. “And now she can bike, which will help her build strength in her legs and improve her balance, too.”
Charlotte is one of 75 special-needs children who this year will receive complimentary bikes fitted to their particular disability as part of the health center’s bike program.
“The bikes cost anywhere from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars,” said Robert Ortlieb, of Beaumont Health System’s media relations. “And all we ask is when they are done with the bike, and they outgrow it, that they return it and we can refurbish it.”
For example, Charlotte’s bicycle has two wheels in the back, and while Charlotte can pedal on her own, her bike will also have a special arm attaching it to her mother’s bicycle.
Other bicycles can be hand cranked if the child cannot control their legs.
Each year, the event has been able to give more and more children bicycles. In its first year, it provided 26 children with bicycles, said Deborah Adsit, Beaumont’s Supervisor of Pediatric Rehabilitation. Altogether, 300 children have benefited from the program, she said.
The increase in bicycles donated has largely been due to a boost in fundraising. Adsit said the program pulled in $35,000 in charity during its first year. Now that the number of major donors has increased, the program fundraised $120,000 this year. Another factor in the increase of bicycles donated is the number returned for refurbishing. Adsit said this year, parents returned about 25 bikes to the program.
“Not only are we raising more money every year, but with the refurbished bikes, we are able to do that many more,” she said. “Now a $3,000 bike only costs us a couple hundred dollars. That’s how we are able to help more and more children.”
The company responsible for the modifications is Hal Honeyman’s Creative Mobility, based out of St. Charles, Ill.
“With each person, we look at what their strengths are — what do they have that we can utilize to pedal,” Honeyman said.
While he has been in the bike business for 40 years, the inspiration behind Creative Mobility is his 20-year-old son, who has cerebral palsy. Because Honeyman’s family is big into biking, he and his wife immediately looked for ways to get their son on a bicycle.
Since then, he’s been developing bicycles for not only special-needs children but also adults with disabilities. He said the reward of seeing people of all ages smile when they receive one of his bikes never gets old.
“You get to see the smiles on these kids’ faces,” he said. “So many of these kids are in a wheelchair, and they’ve had no mobility their entire lives. When you give them that mobility and freedom, you see them light up.
“We get to see that over and over again and it doesn’t wear off.”
Parents of special-needs children that are interested in the program can call Deborah Adsit at (248) 655-5687.