Vickroy: Every kid should have a bike
BY DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @dvickroy April 7, 2014 9:00PM
Scotty Curtiss, of Oak Lawn, rides an adaptive bike during an event at Advocate Children's Hospital last summer. | Supplied photo
Updated: May 9, 2014 6:26AM
It’s one of the simplest joys of childhood: riding a bike.
There’s nothing quite like feeling the wind on your face as you maneuver a wheeled machine, turning it this way and that, being in control and watching the world go by. It’s fun, it’s exhilarating, it’s freedom.
Yet often children with disabilities or medical issues can’t balance or manipulate a traditional bicycle.
Happily, there are adaptive bikes that can make almost everyone mobile. But the custom-made machines often come with hefty price tags.
Scotty Curtiss, a student in the autism program at Shepard High School in Palos Heights, has a mind for biographical facts and can spit out dates with enough accuracy to impress a history teacher. He plays basketball and softball and absolutely adores wrestling — but until recently had never been able to ride a bike.
While attending an adaptive bike event last summer in the parking lot of Advocate Children’s Hospital, Scotty found a new passion. The Sun EZ-3 enables kids who struggle on a traditional bike to ride like the wind. He decided he wanted one of his own and even picked the color: red.
The event was run by Project Mobility: Cycles for Life, a St. Charles-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that offers therapeutic/recreational opportunities for disabled children and adults.
It was the first time Scotty could hold his own while in motion. The look of joy on his face reduced his mother to tears.
“When I saw how happy he was I just knew I had to get him one,” Mikey Curtiss said.
But as emotionally moving as it was to see her son immersed in the experience, Mikey also knew the cost was prohibitive.
Raising children with special needs can be expensive. And because kids with autism and other social issues often don’t make friends easily, Mikey said, parents tend to pay for organized programs that enable them to socialize. For Scotty to be involved in camp, swimming, bowling and teen club, the cost is about $1,200 for the school year.
“It’s hard but this is what he needs to learn how to interact and what the social rules are,” she said.
After Scotty’s attempt to win an adaptive bike through a contest failed, a movement was born.
A GoFundMe account — basically do-it-yourself fundraising — was set up on Project Mobility’s website, and family, friends, teachers and even Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury donated to the cause.
Just recentlyy, Scotty’s campaign reached its goal. Soon the $1,000-plus bicycle will be on its way to his Oak Lawn home.
Meanwhile, Mikey is so moved by the generosity of others that she vows to pay the kindness forward.
She recently contacted Project Mobility to have the organization add Scotty’s friend, Anthony Tabascio, to the account.
Anthony, 17, and Scotty, 15, met through the Oak Lawn Special Recreation program, where they play a variety of team sports together. Scotty’s dad, Scott Curtiss, is a coach for the Oak Lawn Eagles Special Olympics basketball team.
Anthony, who lives in Evergreen Park and attends AERO special-education co-op at Evergreen Park High School, went to the same adaptive bike event as Scotty.
He, too, found a new love.
Karen Tabascio said her son, who has cerebral hypoplasia and seizure disorder as well as hypotonia, which makes his muscles weak, had never been able to ride a bike — until the event.
“He can’t pedal,” she said.
But there’s an adaptive bike that enables him to propel the bike using his arms.
“It took him a little while to get going but once he did he didn’t want to get off,” Karen said.
“To see a 17-year-old kid ride a bike for the first time,” she said, “well, you can’t put a price on that.”
However, there is a price on the bicycle, and it’s more than $2,000.
Even though Karen, a single mom, is uncomfortable asking for help, Mikey is determined that Anthony, and indeed other children with special needs, get fitted with a bicycle that works for them.
“I hope they can keep this going and going,” Mikey said.
Tammy Simmons, director of development for Project Mobility, said the organization is constantly raising money to provide bikes to kids with special needs. Any money collected above and beyond the cost of Anthony’s bike will go toward providing bicycles for those other children, who are brought to the nonprofit’s attention by teachers and therapists.
Hal Honeyman, founder of Project Mobility and owner of The Bike Rack in St. Charles, has been involved with bicycling as a sport, business and recreation for nearly 30 years. His interest in adaptive cycling developed after his son Jacob was born with cerebral palsy.
The group brings adaptive bikes to schools with children with disabilities and to rehabilitative hospitals, as well as Shriners Hospitals for Children, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Access Chicago and Illinois schools.
To learn more about Project Mobility, visit www.projectmobility.org. To donate to the campaign to get Anthony Tabascio a bike, click on the link “Help teens with disabilities get a ride” and be sure to specify that the donation is for Anthony.
The public also can donate to this campaign by sending a check to Project Mobility, 2930 Campton Hills Drive, St. Charles, IL 60175. Be sure to notate on your check for whom the donation is intended. For more information, call (630) 762-9807.