For the first time, Gerrieann Fielder can look forward to cycling as a family this summer, thanks to a program that provides adapted bikes to children with disabilities.
Fielder’s autistic son Blake, 7, he has some difficulty co-ordinating pedalling and steering and the family hasn’t been able to find a bike that he can manoeuvre safely on his own.
Now he has a specialized bike for the summer that includes a handle his mom can grab onto and training wheels.
“It was exciting to be able to see him actually use a bike,” said Fielder.
The family signed up for U Can Ride 2, a program designed by the Catholic and public school boards in Fort McMurray that provides custom-fitted bikes for kids with mobility issues.
There were 90 bikes to rent out this year. Blake picked up his on Friday.
Fielder said she believes biking will help Blake improve his motor skills.
The schools rent out the bikes for the summer at a cost of $50. They are fitted by occupational and physical therapists to make sure the kids are sitting on them properly.
The program, now in its second year, has doubled in size from the 45 bikes it offered for rent last year. All 90 bicycles have been assigned for this summer.
“We will continue to grow it as we go,” said Monica Mankowski, deputy superintendent for Fort McMurray Catholic Schools. “When we watch the children pick up their bikes and get their helmets, it’s just such a lovely moment.”
She said the value of the bicycles ranges from $500 to $4,000, including the cost of the adaptations. Funding for U Can Ride 2 come from a variety of local partners including the Red Cross and Canadian Tire.
Mankowski said some families can’t get the special bikes for their children because they are hard to find and expensive.
Many parents volunteer to help build the bikes and get them ready for the kids.
“It’s been really busy over the last few months.”