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Free wheelin'

Lori Roberts | May 03, 2017

A hand-pedaled tricycle gives children equal access to biking fun.

For most children, riding a bicycle is a rite of passage. For children with developmental disabilities, riding may not even be an option.

This past year, Ohio District Kiwanis clubs donated almost 100 specially designed bicycles and tricycles to children, adults and schools around the state. The tricycles, known as AmTrykes, allow riders to pedal using their arms, legs or both, depending on what’s needed.

“Because the AmTryke stimulates the whole body—it’s not just leg muscles or arm muscles, it’s the whole body working together—you see overall progress,” says 2015-16 Ohio District Governor Amy Zimmerman.

Zimmerman drew from her family’s volunteer background when she proposed the project to district clubs. Both of her parents were involved with the GreeneBucs, a Dayton, Ohio, chapter of the National AMBUCS organization. AMBUCS, which works to create mobility and independence for people with disabilities, owns and works with trike-builder AmTryke. 

Zimmerman figured her Kiwanis district might generate enough funds to donate about 26 AmTrykes, which would represent one per division. Instead, clubs are closing in on 100 donations. Adults benefit too, like an injured veteran who received a grown-up version.

The trikes are a big hit. Over the past couple of years, the Kiwanis Club of Lima, Ohio, donated one each to three area elementary schools. Arden Ruen, a physical therapist assistant with Lima City Schools, moves the AmTrykes between schools as needed. They’ve been especially popular with those who have limited use of their legs.

“For these students, the AmTrykes are very useful to pedal with their hands to assist with the leg pedal movement. Each student has demonstrated improved distance as they are able to pedal throughout the school on their own,” Ruen says.

Thanks to the trikes, students with developmental disabilities are now the ones in the driver’s seat.

“The AmTryke has given my students the opportunity to participate with peers,” Ruen says, “(and) gain balance, confidence, coordination, endurance and strength.”

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