Expanding the program and the knowledge
Though originally geared for children with coordination challenges, we began including children with autism spectrum disorder in 2006, and children with mild neuromuscular disorders in 2008. In 2011, we developed a train the trainer course so that we could share the curriculum with other therapists across the province and in 2012,I returned to school to pursue a masters in rehabilitation science in order to better understand how to teach children with cognitive delays- children with Down syndrome in particular. I will defend my thesis in the summer of 2014.
Through the years, a few families had donated some of their own adapted bicycles when their children graduated onto two wheels . These, I informally passed onto other families working on the same skill. However, in 2012, thanks to an amazing family, I came to realize many things. First, just how difficult it was to get funding for adapted bicycles that suited the needs of children with severe physical impairments. Many of the funding sources offer one time grants, and if an adapted bicycle is going up against a ramp into the home or a wheelchair accessible van, inevitably the bike will not get purchased. Second how expensive adapted bikes are! Even with funding, many grants did not cover the type of bikes that worked well for children with physical impairments. This and the number of families that shared that their adapted bike “never really worked” made me realize just how important finding the right bike is. I too was at fault for assuming with a few minor adaptations, we could “rig up” any bike but I learned otherwise from their son who was 5 at the time. He had worked on pedalling for several months using a regular trike with adapted footplates, and was able to pedal a few revolutions at a time. However, as soon as he got on a freedom concepts bike, he pedalled the entire length of the gym and commented “Hey, I’m good at this!”. For a child who got around with a power wheelchair, to have found self confidence in a physical skill was a HUGE deal. We needed to somehow get funding for this bike!
The First Funders And Partners
We approached the President’s Choice Children’s Charity in the fall of 2012 to see if they would consider funding this and several other bikes that would then be lent out to families. A $18 000 donation bought us five bikes, several adapted cycling components and the start we needed to get off the ground. The city of Edmonton River Valley Program offered us a storage space, the Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta helped with creating a Facebook page and planning and the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) partnered with the hand cycle education. The Children’s Ability Fund contributed $2500 allowing us to modify several bikes to meet the needs of the individuals borrowing them and Specialty Designs helped create these custom parts. Many families generously donated their old adapted bikes or components to our program which were then fixed up by volunteers at the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society (EBC). Where a bike was needed, Sport Central provided bikes that best matched the needs of our riders.
Our first fitting day was on May 11 2013 where we fit just under 20 kids with bikes. This event was largely coordinated by Trent Magis, another paediatric physiotherapist. Media coverage from this event was phenomenal and the community rallied to provide bikes and monetary donations allowing us to support even more kids. By the end of the season, 44 children had benefitted from the program. This also marked the time that the Alberta Association for Community Living (AACL) became a partner, offering tax receipts to those wishing to donate money for adapted bike purchases.
“Please note, donations must be made by cheques payable to AACL and “You Can Ride 2″ clearly written on the subject line. 100% of funds raised through AACL goes towards the purchase of adapted bikes.”
Up to the end of 2013, You Can Ride 2 (YCR2) was entirely volunteer driven. EBC has provided the infrastructure, insurance and mechanical support; the program would not be in existence without their contribution. Each year, over 1000 volunteer hours go into supporting cycling for children with special needs, with much of this time being given by skilled professionals. All of the programs are free for families. However with the massive growth in the program, it was necessary to hire a head mechanic and a program coordinator to help.
Grants to maintain the program
It was thanks to a $25 000 donation from the Alberta Association of Insurance Adjusters in the fall of 2013 that the hiring of our head mechanic and a program coordinator (and the purchase of 23 additional bikes) was made possible for the 2014 season. Grants from Mountain Equipment Co-op and Make Something Edmonton as well as a donation from the front of house staff at the Jubilee Auditorium is allowing us to continue this for the 2015 season.
With the input of countless children, parents and volunteers, our program continues to evolve to best meet the needs of the children and families we serve. We have made significant progress on a number of our goals and continue to work towards improving cycling access for all children through sustainable programming. We look forward to working more with members of the community and to learning from the children and families we serve as we continue to search for the best way of facilitating this important skill of childhood.
Thank you to everyone supporting this amazing program!
Janine Halayko, physiotherapist and volunteer
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