Kids with special needs receive free bikes during annual Beaumont event

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published June 28, 2017


ROYAL OAK — When one of Wendy Nicholls’ young rehabilitation patients came to her more than a decade ago and said he would never ride a bike, she wouldn’t accept that proclamation.

“I told him, ‘Let me put you in this bike, and if at the end of the day you can’t ride it, then you can tell me every single day how wrong I am,’” she said. “I put him on the bike and down the hallway he went.

“He was the reason I started Bike Day.”

The Beaumont pediatric rehabilitation physical therapist assistant not only helped that boy with cerebral palsy pedal a bike, but through the span of 13 years, she has seen about 100 similarly abled children take a ride through the annual Bike Day program that she created with the permission of her superiors and the help of motivated donors.

The 2017 Beaumont Children’s Bike Day took place the morning of June 24 at Beaumont Health Center on Coolidge Highway in Royal Oak, and all program participants received specialty bikes at no cost.

The specially equipped and retrofitted bikes created through the AMBUCS Amtryke program lined the outside of the white brick building and were tagged with the names of children they would soon assist. AMBUCS is a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to creating mobility and independence for people with disabilities.

Jason Kwapich, of Ortonville, said his 7-year-old daughter, Raemi Stach, has disabilities and is legally blind. He tried buying her a traditional tricycle, but it didn’t work out.

“So this is her first real, true bicycle,” Kwapich said. “And it helps her out with her therapy, building up her muscle tone, and really anything to keep her motivated and keep her going.”

Kwapich said the resources that Beaumont provides — including gifting the special bikes — is appreciated, especially because buying a specially equipped bike isn’t something he would be able to handle on his own.

“Because of all of Raemi’s medical needs, it is really hard,” he said. “So being able to get something like this that she can go out in the neighborhood and ride a bike and do the stuff other kids can do means a lot.”

Dearborn Heights father Rick Dzieglewicz said both of his children have ataxia-telangiectasia — also known as A-T or Louis-Bar syndrome — including his 10-year-old son, Devin Dzieglewicz.

“He’s been wanting a bike since his brother got one,” the father said. “He’s really happy now.”

Devin was all smiles as he tested out his bike in the Beaumont parking lot.

Representatives from AMBUCS were on-site to make any necessary adjustments and help families carry their new bikes to their vehicles. Some of the bikes are pedaled by hand, and some by foot.

“This is what we do,” said AMBUCS Walker branch volunteer Allen Lemieux. “We give away trikes to kids, and we also give them to veterans that come back with disabilities too.”

The organization is able to donate the bikes for free in some cases or make the bikes available at lower costs to institutions like Beaumont Health.

Beaumont officials said bikes can cost anywhere from $1,300 to $3,000, and in some cases, up to $6,000. The cost is not covered by health insurance.

“So for many families, it’s this or they don’t get a bike,” Nicholls said.

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and other private individual donors helped fund the 2017 Bike Day.

Nicholls said she has seen the Bike Day program grow from 22 recipients in 2004 to 122 in 2017.

She said the uniqueness of the program is that no one involved is in it for the money, but rather to make something that a child could ride.

Nicholls said the benefits of the program range from continued physical therapy to being able to do an activity they see other children their age participate in, to promoting her initial message.

“Never say never,” Nicholls said.

That is the bottom line she hopes people take away from the special day.

Children interested in participating in Bike Day should be referred by their physical or occupational therapist or doctor, and current or past Beaumont patients will be given first priority.