Adaptive bike donation brings joy
As Jennifer Shipe and daughter, Maddie, 8, look on, Maddie's twin sister, Abby Shipe, pedals her new adaptive bike provided by Variety the Children's Charity of Pittsburgh around the parking lot of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC's outpatient facility in Pine on Monday.
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Eight-year-old Abby Shipe has cerebral palsy, but she is looking forward to the day when she can ride her new bike with her twin sister, Maddie.
And that day is nearing thanks to an initiative by Variety the Children's Charity of Pittsburgh to provide free adaptive bikes for disabled children. Abby will be pedaling through her Shaler neighborhood alongside Maddie this spring.
"Abby has weakness and spasticity in her muscles on her right side," said Abby's mother, Jennifer Shipe. "She gets very tight and doesn't move very well at times. Riding a bike will be wonderful physical therapy."
Born prematurely, Abby has been in physical therapy since she was 9 months old.
"When she was younger, we used an adaptive tricycle with Velcro on the pedals," Mrs. Shipe said.
Abby is outgrowing her tricycle, so the family considered an adaptive bike. But at approximately $1,800, the cost was prohibitive and would post a financial burden in addition to the numerous medical costs and other items they must provide for Abby.
Mrs. Shipe is an elementary school teacher for South Butler County School District, and her husband, Bryan, is a mental health therapist for Chartiers Mental Health.
The family learned last year about the Variety "My Bike" program, but Mrs. Shipe doubted that her family would meet the eligibility requirements. She said they applied because it was for Abby and the bicycle would mean so much to the family.
Charlie LaVallee of Cranberry, CEO of Variety, said his organization raised more than $450,000, which was enough to purchase 237 adaptive bikes. During December's kickoff event, 97 children with physical disabilities were presented with bikes, but 140 bikes still are available.
Mrs. Shipe urged families with disabled children to seek out information about opportunities like the "My Bike" program.
"Variety has been trying to put out information to local physical therapists and physicians," she said. "We as parents need to network better, because this is such a great opportunity for more than just exercise. A child like this will have self-esteem issues, but this opens up their horizons and lets them feel good about themselves."
She said the bicycle will have a positive impact on her family.
"People take for granted that you can go out and ride bikes with your kids," she said. "Maddie would not learn to ride, because her sister couldn't do it. Now we can enjoy time together as a family and Maddie doesn't need to feel guilty about having fun on her bike."
First Published February 28, 2013 5:28 am