Beaumont brings back Bike Day for children with special needs

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 12, 2021

 Kevin Jordan, of Oak Park, walks with his daughter, Bella Jordan, 11, as she pedals her new bike at Beaumont Hospital May 22.

Kevin Jordan, of Oak Park, walks with his daughter, Bella Jordan, 11, as she pedals her new bike at Beaumont Hospital May 22.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Melanie Casali, of Macomb Township, walks with her son, Antonio Casali, 5, as he pedals his new bike at Beaumont Hospital May 22.

Melanie Casali, of Macomb Township, walks with her son, Antonio Casali, 5, as he pedals his new bike at Beaumont Hospital May 22.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

ROYAL OAK — After a one-year absence, on May 22 Beaumont Health and its partners brought back the popular Bike Day program, which provides specially adapted bikes to children with special needs at no cost to their families.

The event, while canceled last year due to the pandemic, has been a community staple since 2004. It gives children who cannot ride traditional bikes the opportunity to enjoy the summertime activity.

The adaptive bike benefits also include building endurance and muscle strength; improving dissociation of both upper and lower extremities; and deepening relationships with friends, family and the community.

Each bike is adjusted for a child’s individual needs.

This year, 88 children were fitted for bikes at the Beaumont Health Center May 22. Recipients were selected based on need and how long they have been waiting. To be considered, children needed to have a prescription and be referred by their physical or occupational therapist or doctor.

Each bike costs between $500 and $5,000. The program is made possible through year-round fundraising in the community, as well as the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the Beaumont Foundation and the Center for Children’s Rehabilitation.

Charlotte Alex, director of the Children’s Miracle Network at the Beaumont Health Foundation, said the money raised comes from customer donations during promotions at corporations such as Speedway, Ace Hardware, Panda Express and Costco.

“We bring in three vendors for the day — all vendors of adaptive bikes — and the rehab specialists are in teams and fit children as they come in,” Alex said. “It was a very festive day. Every child and every volunteer received a Bike Day T-shirt and the children also received some candy on their way out.”

She added that the program allows families to return the bikes when their children outgrow them so that the bikes can be refurbished for other recipients.

Bella Jordan, 11, of Oak Park, and Antonio Casali, 5, of Macomb Township, both received their new bikes May 22. Due to the pandemic, both children had to wait two years to get a second bike to fit their growing bodies.

Bella has spastic quadriplegia and cerebral palsy.

“It’s definitely an uphill battle most of the time with different accommodations and insurance and, even now, we’re still trying to get a (wheelchair accessible) van,” said Raven Jordan, Bella’s mom, in a May 25 phone interview. “She got her bike and she did ride it Saturday after her older brother’s baseball game.”

Raven said Bella was excited to show everybody her bike and anticipates that her daughter will spend a lot of time this summer on her new bike. While a caregiver must push her, Bella can pedal. Her bike has a higher seat, straps to keep her limbs in place, and an adjustable handlebar loop.

“It definitely gets her legs moving and tries to loosen them up a little. It even helps with her balance,” she said. “Beaumont has been great. We’ve been going there off and on for a long time. I’m so happy they have this program.”

Antonio’s mom, Melanie Casali, said her son began therapy at Beaumont when he was about 6 months old.

Antonio was born at just 23 weeks gestation and weighed 1 pound, 2 ounces. He spent five months in the neonatal intensive care unit at Beaumont Hospital and was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Melanie said the bike provides more than a fun activity. It helps Antonio work on the pattern of alternating each foot, which helps him tremendously with crawling and advancing on his knees. It also helps to alleviate painful muscle spasms that plague him periodically.

“He’s a very happy little boy,” she said. “He’s not able to walk on his own. We’re hoping he can walk one day with some sort of assistance. He’s also nonverbal.”

Antonio is good at communicating through smiling and other facial expressions, sounds and “when he doesn’t like something, you know,” she said.

She said Antonio has already been making use of his new bike, which has a harness to keep him safely secured, as well as straps to keep his feet on the pedals. He can pedal on his own or get assistance from a caregiver.

“We can’t go to the store and buy a bike like typical kids do,” Melanie said. “For us to be able to go to this event and find a bike that is perfect for Antonio, that’s customized and also safe, you can’t ask for anything else.”