People with physical disabilities are often limited in the recreational activities they can partake in, like running or playing soccer. However, Cerebral Palsy (CP) Kids and Families hope to provide those with limited motor skills a chance to learn how to ride a bike.
The Calgary-based association caters to all ages and physical disabilities with multisport recreational programs, including their adaptive bike program.
The CP Kids and Families’ program, Learn to Ride, runs every Sunday starting Oct. 8 until Nov. 5 at Mount Royal University’s indoor track.
“We can get them on a bike, they can pedal, they can do something independently—something for the very first time in their life,” said Sheralee Stetler, the association’s executive director.
While adaptive bikes range from $600 to $4,000 to buy, CP Kids and Families provide assistance through fundraisers, including a loan program that costs $75 a year. Additionally, the organization has over 600 uniquely customized bikes to use.
“We realized that was a barrier that parents couldn’t pay. So we fundraised… to make sure that the child who needs those bikes gets those bikes,” Stetler explained.
Riding an adaptive bike is not always the easiest thing to do for those with physical disabilities. However, the bikes support every part of their body, including the legs, feet, and chest to allow for a fully functional and secure ride.
No matter what an individual’s biking ability is like at the beginning, most are capable of building up strength and skills.
With a child’s accomplishments come a parent’s pride.
“When you’re a parent of a child and you’re told that your child may never walk or do anything, it’s like you’re doing this typical right of passage for any other typical child,” Stetler said. “Parents are crying because their child is doing something.”
Stetler, a mother of a son with cerebral palsy, has been working at CP Kids and Families since 2000. Over the years, she cherishes the bonds that she constantly builds with other parents.
“It opens the door just to build a relationship… The adaptive bike program is not about just getting a bike. It’s about getting that whole connection to other parents and just normalizing what your new normal is,” she said.
Recently, the organization started a similar event where families venture out to Fish Creek Park or Confederation Park to ride the latest e-trikes and e-tandem bikes. These electric bikes allow wheelchair users to ride along with a parent side-by-side or in front.
Since CP Kids and Families is the only agency of its kind in Calgary, they also offer a diverse range of services for members such as virtual programs, music and movement for infants, young adult meet-ups, and much more.
Not only do they offer recreational programs, but also provide social services, family counselling and therapy, and financial assistance.
“For me, it’s trying to bridge that gap so that no family is left behind and that we can support and make sure that they’re well supported in this journey,” Stetler said.
“The journey isn’t just when you get the diagnosis—it’s for life.”