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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Pedal It Forward: Dake Foundation Holds "Stationary Bike Fundraiser"

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Bicycles are a common symbol of childhood: Most everyone has owned a bike as a child, or taken turns with their friends riding a bike down their neighborhood street. Learning to ride a bike for the first time can be a child’s first rite of passage into independence. But what about children with limited mobility, who can’t ride a normal bicycle the way other kids can? Don’t they deserve a chance at independence, too?

 

This is the philosophy of the Karen and Gary Dake Foundation for Children, a charity that raises money to provide kids with disabilities the tools they need to become as independent as possible. One of these tools is an adaptive tricycle, a special bike that can be customized and tailor-made for children with limited mobility.

The organization created a fundraising event called the Stationary Bike Race, where families and friends can form teams and compete relay-style on stationary bikes for an hour while kids with adaptive tricycles ride their bikes on the track.

Adaptive tricycles can cost anywhere from $500 to $4500, and insurance companies won’t cover the cost, according to the foundation’s executive director, Susan Koppi.

“We get a lot of requests for those bikes, so I thought, ‘What a great way to bring it all full circle—to have a stationary bike race and the adaptive race on the track at the same time so people can raise money and then see directly where their money goes,’” Koppi said. “So last year’s recipients of bikes are able to ride their bikes and show off their new skills, and you can see how proud they are. And the people in the studio get it, like ‘Wow, the hard work I did being here today made this kid’s world.’”

One of these kids is Alyssa Cusack, whose right side of her body was paralyzed after she suffered a stroke at just 14 months old. After years of different therapies and re-learning how to walk, Alyssa wanted to ride a bike just like any other child.

“Her sisters ride bikes, and she always wanted to,” said Denise Cusack, Alyssa’s mother. “But she couldn’t get one because she didn’t have the strength.”

But after Alyssa’s friend Eric told her in their pool therapy session how he received an adaptive bike through Minor Improvements (a physical therapy center founded by Karen Dake), Alyssa’s mom decided to call and see if Alyssa could get a bike, too.

“At the time we couldn’t afford a bike, but because of the foundation Alyssa was able to get a bike completely tailored to her,” Cusack said. “As soon as she got on the bike she was able to pedal. It was very emotional for all of us.”

After receiving her own bike, Alyssa’s parents decided to raise money to help another child in need of a bike this year.

“Our goal was to raise around $500 to see what we could do, and it just kept growing and growing, and between my husband and I, we raised over $1500,” Cusack said.

“Our thought was that last year at this time, someone raised money for a bike and that’s what paid for our daughter’s bike last May,” Cusack said. “So now it’s our turn and somebody else will have a bike because of our fundraising.”

“We feel like every kid deserves the right to ride a bike and our mission is to help children become as independent as possible,” Koppi said.

George and Janie Green, whose son, Sammy, has cerebral palsy, said that the adaptive bike his son received from the foundation initiated his independence and confidence.

“This has been a godsend, really,” Janie Green said. “When he first got his bike they went and measured him and I thought they were just loaning him one. They said ‘Oh no, this is going to be his bike,’ and he got to pick the color and we got it right before Christmas so it was like the biggest present he’s ever gotten. It’s just made him so independent.”

Sammy’s independence has enabled him to join a bowling team in Lake George—just last week, he bowled a 107, according to his father.

“Both teams and everyone in the whole bowling alley got up and clapped when he got a strike,” George Green said, teary-eyed. “It gives him that attitude that he can, you know?”

Not only does he ride his bike and play for the bowling team, but Sammy also enjoys shooting basketballs at his house.

“He’ll go outside and put his basketballs in the back [of his bike] and rides over to the basketball hoop and shoots hoops,” Janie Green said. “He just loves it. I’m just so thankful for this organization, what they do—you can’t even put it into words. Every kid has to have a bike.”

For more information on the Karen and Gary Dake Foundation for Children or to learn how to donate to help more children receive adaptive tricycles, visit the foundation’s website at www.dakefoundation.org.

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