Families enjoy unique bike company

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

As an adaptive bike company expands into Vermont to benefit people with motor challenges, several Williston families have come forward to support the group and take advantage for their children.

AmTryke, the non-profit group that makes the bikes, opened a Vermont chapter last month. At the kickoff event on Sept. 15, about 30 families, including a handful from Williston, went to the University of Vermont to try the bikes.

The Francis family from Williston won a bike for their 3-year-old son, Cutter, who has cerebral palsy. The Leombruno family, also from Williston, purchased one for their son, Boedy, 4, who has severe autism, cerebral palsy and visual impairments.

“It gives (Boedy) a sense of security and freedom. He’s doing what all the other kids are doing,” said the boy’s mother, Patti Leombruno. “It’s so special because Boedy’s balance is so bad, when he runs there’s always the fear he’s going to fall. The only places he’s really safe are in the pool or riding this tricycle. His feet are strapped into it.”

AmTryke belongs to AMBUCS Inc., an organization based in North Carolina and described on its Web site as “dedicated to creating mobility and independence for people with disabilities.”

Marie MacLeod, a pediatric physical therapist and the president of the Vermont chapter of AmTryke, spent two years working to bring the group to the state. Beneficiaries of the bikes, MacLeod said, can include people with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism or those injured in car accidents.

“These kids moved so much easier on their bikes. They can move at speeds they could never move at (while walking),” MacLeod said. “They can get out and do stuff with their peers, brothers, sisters.”

Deborha Francis said she wants Cutter to use the bike to strengthen leg muscles to keep his hip from popping out of its socket when he walks. The boy also thoroughly enjoyed riding the bike.

“He was laughing, smiling, because (with) all the equipment they had to strap him into place, he could pedal it himself, move it himself,” Cutter said.

The adaptive features vary based on the needs of the rider, but can include a locking feature on the steering, backrests, foot straps and hand grips in which the rider moves his or her arms to help pedal.

Many of the recipients get their bikes off the wish list, but the Leombrunos decided to purchase one for Boedy to hopefully receive a bike before the cold weather.

“When his body outgrows it, we donate this bike and get on the wish list for a bigger bike,” Leombruno said.

By purchasing a bike for their son, the Leombrunos also contributed towards the AmTryke fundraising. Once the Vermont chapter raises enough money for 10 bikes, MacLeod said the national organization will donate 10 more bikes.

When Vermont AmTryke held the opening event, the national chapter brought a trailer full of different parts and adaptations of the bikes, allowing dozens of people to try the vehicles.

Anyone looking to donate or learn more about the organization can contact MacLeod at 862-0299.