Disabled Army Veteran Builds Adaptive Bikes for Kids
When he got his own custom bike, he knew he had to help others.
If you're like me, getting your first bike was one of your best memories as a child. For the kids who received their first bicycles from Richmond, Virginia non-profit REACHcycles earlier this week, the moment was extra special.
After a swimming accident left him paralyzed, U.S. Army veteran James Howard received a custom, three-wheeled bike to compete in a disabled veterans cycling event. This experience was an important step in his recovery, and allowed him the freedom to join his fellow veterans in activities he didn't think were possible due to his disability.
After the race, Howard volunteered with AMBUCS, the national organization that provided his cycle, and eventually started REACHcycles (Richmond Empowering Abilities for Children with Cycles) to continue providing bikes for veterans and children with disabilities in his own community.
The AmTryke therapeutic tricycles can be hand or foot operated and are custom made for each child depending on their needs. The bikes can accommodate riders of all sizes and ages and have been recognized for helping to improve motor skills, develop strength and build self-esteem.
"We have veterans, active-duty soldiers, and youth groups assemble the bikes and deliver the bikes so it's all-volunteer," James told CBS6 . "It's amazing. Words can't explain it. You have to be there to see it."
Children try out the AmTryke cycle at a community event in Richmond, VA.
Since the program's start in 2014, REACHcycles has awarded close to 400 AmTrykes. The bikes are vital to helping children with disabilities have some normalcy and independence in their lives by allowing them to join their siblings and friends for rides.
"I think it has been so rewarding for him," Nancy, the mother of a child who received a bike from REACHcycles, said.
"It's just wonderful to see them ride the bike for the first time and take off, and see the happiness on their faces."
The non-profit is very active in the Richmond community. They hold events throughout the year to distribute the bikes to children just last week they gave 21 bikes away and have plans to produce more for another giveaway event before Christmas.
REACHcycles is a completely volunteer-run organization, and they rely heavily on donations to keep producing bikes. Visit the donate page of their website to make a contribution.
(Source: Video and images REACHcycles Facebook )