ECU group builds bicycles for children with disabilities
Volunteer Rick Sussman adjusts handlebars on a custom-made bicycle, one of 20 put together by ECU faculty and students for delivery to children with disabilities. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)
By Jamitress Bowden
ECU News Services
A group of East Carolina University physical therapy students and faculty members volunteered their time on May 17 to build bikes for 20 children with disabilities, for a giveaway on May 18.
“I enjoy riding bikes and putting them together so this seemed like a great way to give back,” said Andy Hayek, a second-year physical therapy student who participated in the May 17 community service project with the local chapter of AMBUCS, American Business Clubs.
To receive an adapted bike, families had to respond to advertisements distributed by local therapists, physical therapy schools, the Greenville Parks and Recreation Specialized Recreation Department or email. All the participants were chosen within 14 days of advertising.
Caitlin Daniels, a second-year physical therapy student, said it is important to see how technology can be used to help patients be active in recreational activities.
Cindy Taylor holds a tire before she places it on an axle.
Department of Physical Therapy faculty members as well as local physical therapists and occupational therapists conducted an initial evaluation of the children on March 9. The evaluations of the children better informed the students and faculty members what therapy was best for the children. Once the evaluations were completed, the orders were placed for the Amtryke bikes. The bikes were specially designed for each child based on their needs and the suggestions of the evaluator.
If a child needs therapy for his legs, for example, a bike will be designed to let the user propel by hand. That bike will move his legs so he is able to receive custom mobility treatment.
“I feel great because I get to see several students working for the community,” said Dr. Amy Gross McMillan, ECU associate professor and associate chair of physical therapy. She added that she looked forward to giving the bikes away to the children they evaluated and their parents.
Each Amtryke bike costs between $500 and $800 depending on the design needed for the child. The participating families received the bikes at no cost.
Once all of the evaluations were completed, the fundraising began. With a $6,000 donation from Darragh Foundation and another donation from First Christian Church in Robersonville, the organization raised more that the $8,000 goal, according to Christine Lysaght, clinical instructor in the Department of Physical Therapy in ECU’s College of Allied Health Science.
“Most of these families would not be able to afford these bikes for their children. There are so many other things that take priority,” said Lysaght.
Lysaght founded the local chapter of AMBUCS in February and was excited they were so successful with their first giveaway. AMBUCS is a national non-profit service-driven organization, dedicated to creating mobility and independence for people with disabilities. The ENC chapter’s mission is to provide bikes to people with disabilities and scholarships for needed physical therapy.
Debbie Chapman, mother of Caitlin, 21, said her daughter was excited and happy with all the attention. “She wanted to ride immediately. It was great and there were a lot of supportive people there,” she said. “I really want to thank Christine for getting this started for our community.”
Jennifer Haddock’s son, Reid, 2, received a bike on May 18. “I thought the event was awesome. It was nice to see what can be offered for children so they can enjoy a bike,” said Haddock.
Lysaght said working with AMBUCS and facilitating programs like the bike giveaway combines her love for children, desires for exercise for all and knowledge as a physical therapist. The students and faculty will conduct another evaluation period this fall and because more than enough funds were raised, AMBUCS is starting with close to $2,000 in preparation for their next giveaway.
Andy Hyack, left, tightens a bicycle wheel while other volunteers attach wheels to axles.