Riding a bike may seem like a natural ability to many, but for people with disabilities it may not be as easy - yet the experience can be unforgettable.
That's why the Greater Chautauqua area AMBUCS chapter and Jamestown Community College's Students of Occupational Therapy Assistant program will host the second annual Bike Day event Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the JCC Student Union. Although the event is free and open to the public, area residents with disabilities and their friends and family are specifically invited to try evaluation AmTrykes.
According to Heather Panczykowski, president of Greater Chautauqua area AMBUCS, last year area residents ranging in age from 5 to 81 attended the event to learn more about AMBUCS and AmTrykes, which are bikes tailored specifically for the needs of individuals with disabilities.
Heather Panczykowski, occupational therapist, and Jenna Leveille, JCC OTA student, are shown fitting tryke recipient Parker Gilmore during AMBUCS training and Bike Day event 2012.
"You'll get the expertise of clinicians who know what they are doing when measuring bikes for people with disabilities - that's our training," said Panczykowski.
At the event, each eligible participant will be evaluated by an occupational therapist or occupational therapy assistant who will make sure the individual is fitted properly for an AmTryke of their own. Approximately 20 individuals throughout the greater Chautauqua area have received AmTrykes to date. Although the AmTrykes range in cost from $250 to $1,400, families who need financial support can be placed on a wish list. Several members of the community who signed up on the wish list last year have already received an AmTryke.
"If we don't have the funds right away for people who come to our event, we put them on our wish list," said Ellen Bobst, secretary and treasurer. "As funds become available we can order a bike. We'll actually be presenting a bike to someone from Forestville on our wish list at the Bike Day event at 1:30 p.m."
Nate Gavin is a disabled area resident who received an AmTryke after ordering one at Bike Day Event 2012. After using the bike for a period of time, Nate's mother, Sue Gavin, told Panczykowski Nate has put a lot of miles on his AmTryke since last year and he loves it.
"With Nate's type of muscular dystrophy we are fortunate that he can pedal a bicycle," she said." "His AmTryke gives him a healthy and fun alternative to his only other form of mobility, which is his wheelchair."
The Greater Chautauqua area AMBUCS chapter is a nonprofit organization, made of up volunteers, that is situated on JCC's campus. The chapter raises funds to provide adaptive AmTrykes for residents in Chautauqua Cattaraugus, Erie and Warren counties. Those who would like to reserve a time slot at Bike Day 2013 can do so by calling Bobst at 338-1164. JCC's Student Union is located at 525 Falconer St. in Jamestown. For more information visit www.sunyjcc.edu/ota.
By providing people who are unable to operate traditional bikes with an AmTryke, the Greater Chautauqua area AMBUCS is able to enhance the quality of life for those living with disabilities through therapy.
According to Panczykowski, there are a number of beneficial therapeutic aspects associated with riding a bike, including improved coordination, strength and range of motion. But, the AmTryke also has other benefits including: motor learning benefits from dissociation; the repetitive nature of AmTrykes helps make connections between sensory input, motor output and modulation; and the combination of using all four extremities helps with weaknesses in any area.
"The AmTrykes have a positive drive, which means as soon as you push you're going to get momentum - so it takes less pressure to propel them," said Panczykowski. "The AmTrykes not only improve social participation, but more family time and recreation. It also helps with muscle strength, range of motion, cardiovascular, respiratory, perception, cognitive and more. And, when doing therapy, would you rather do exercises like sit-ups, or ride a bike?"
Parker Gilmore, the son of Samantha and Lee, who received a bike after participating in AMBUCS' training and Bike Day event in 2012, said what he likes best about his AmTryke is that he can pedal with his hands.
AmTrykes are different than traditional bikes in many ways, but one aspect that makes them the same is that the rider, unless already an adult, will need to replace it after outgrowing the bike. That's why Ethan Cooper, who received an AmTryke from last year's event, will return to this year's event to trade it in for a bigger size.
Cooper's grandmother, Betty, said, "The benefits he has gotten from riding (his AmTryke) cannot be replaced by anything else. We are surely blessed by all of you by receiving his bike. You should see him. I see him grab his bike like all the other kids and go riding. It's literally a miracle. Thank you from the depths of my heart and soul."
Fore more information call 800-838-1845 or visit ambucs.org.