For almost every kid, learning how to ride a bike is a staple of childhood. You start out with training wheels, learning how to pedal and experience the rush of flying along without the risk of toppling over. Then comes that big moment where the training wheels come off, mom or dad or another adult pushes you along for a bit until letting go, and then it's just you and the two-wheeler, taking on the world together.
It sounds cheesy to adults, but not to a single kid who's learning to ride a bike for the first time. Frankly, it's a complete rush at that age, and an important part of picking up balance skills as well as understanding how to conquer fears. It goes without saying that every child should have the opportunity to experience that, but unfortunately for thousands of kids with special needs around the country, learning how to ride requires a different vessel that's much harder to come by than a traditional bike. That's where the Great Bike Giveaway, a project of nonprofit organization Friendship Circle, comes in.
Now in its fifth year of existence, the Great Bike Giveaway collects donations to pay for adaptive bikes awarded to kids with special needs. This year, the program aims to hand out 600 bikes, each of which costs $2,700. The site features children at varying ages and levels of disability in need of the unique rides, such as Johnathan, a 21-month-old who suffers from epilepsy and severe hypotonia, and Aliyah, a 13-year-old with Down syndrome and multiple heart defects.
Per Friendship Circle's website, the adaptive bikes "give individuals with special needs independence, exercise and most importantly the chance to be included in bike rides with their friends and family." In addition to accommodating for a variety of physical disabilities, the wheels provide riders with an important feeling of individuality and inner strength. The exercise is, of course, important, but even more important may be the element of freedom the bikes grant to kids with special needs.
Check out a video featuring the many kids whose lives have been changed by the Great Bike Giveaway:
Cover image: Friendship Circle