Per its official website, World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), observed on March 21st every year, is a “global awareness day which has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. The date for WDSD being the 21st day of the 3rd month, was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome.”
As I reflect on working with Strider Bikes to share stories of their special needs outreach, four extraordinary individuals come to mind.
Marissa with Moxie
When I met Marissa, the word “moxie” popped into my head. Dictionary.com defines it has having “courage, nerve or vigor.” Marissa has all three – to the max – and arrived pumped up to participate in the 2016 Strider Cup World Championship.
Her mom, Mary, said when Marissa first got her Strider Bike four months before the race, she was afraid of bikes due to previous bad experiences with pedal bikes. It didn’t take long for Marissa to master her balance on the no-pedal Strider balance bike with enough skill and speed to win the world title. Her mom also said riding the Strider helped her lose 25 pounds in the last year and improve her endurance.
See Marissa leading the pack and holding her trophy high on the podium in this 2016 Strider World Championship recap video. (special needs racing starts at 1:25”)
Best Friends Ali and Grady
I’ll never forget meeting Ali and Grady at the 2015 Strider Cup World Championship. Their teacher, Amy, told me the two were best buddies and had greatly improved their balance skills riding Strider Bikes in and outside the classroom. The smiles on their faces were contagious, as they teased each other about who would win.
From the starting gate, Ali led the entire race, striding along with her swift, long legs. As I watched her determined grin, I remembered Amy telling me that many folks have no idea about the challenges people with special needs have learning to ride a bike – a milestone many take for granted.
At the end of the race, Grady managed to push just a bit harder, thundering by Ali in the last few feet to take the top podium spot. They both won, though. The independence and confidence of starting on a Strider Bike has helped each transition to pedal bikes. More on Ali, Grady and Amy in the article, 5 Areas of Impact STRIDER Bikes Have with My Special Education Students.
Ryan is a man I admire greatly. He founded Strider Bikes in 2007. Strider has sold over 1.5 million no-pedal, balance bikes, mostly the 12” models, for kids 5 and under. Ryan decided a few years ago to create larger sizes (16” model and 20” model) for older children and adults with balance and coordination challenges. The bikes have changed the lives of hundreds of individuals with Down syndrome, such as Marissa, Ali and Grady.
Ryan is also one of the most philanthropic CEO’s I know. To date, Strider has donated over $850,000 in cash and bikes to organizations that serve children and adults in need. Strider formalized its benevolence commitment with the creation of The Rider Fund, first introduced June 2014 at the Special Olympics USA Games. Since then, Strider has committed one percent of gross revenue from all sales worldwide to this fund. Last year, the Governor of South Dakota presented Strider with a Distinguished Service Award for helping individuals with special needs.
Strider Education Foundation
For more information visit www.StriderEducationFoundation.org.
Each of the 2017 Strider Cup Races will have Special Needs Races, and the entry fee is waived for those participants. The races are in Fort Worth, Texas (May 6); Pittsburgh, PA (May 27); Lincoln, NE (June 10); and the Strider Cup World Championship in Salt Lake City (July 21-22). Information on signing up a racer with special needs is at 2017 Strider Cup - Special Needs Racing.
We love hearing from Strider parents so when we got this letter and photo from Ryan's parents we knew we had to share it:
Ryan is a beautiful, active, funny, smart, amazing child. He is a six year old boy with diagnosed speech and motor Apraxia and ADHD. Life, this far, has been difficult for Ryan – he has a hard time with speech, fine and gross motor activities – plus he cannot sit still! He can understand everything you say but cannot always communicate with you understandably or effectively. An easy-to-understand definition of apraxia is difficulty planning and producing. Ryan knows what he wants to say and what movements he wants to make but cannot plan and produce the sounds/movement.
Ryan has had all styles of bicycles - from tricycles, “hot wheels,” scooters to training wheels on a “Big Kid” bike. Ryan always ended up frustrated and mad at the bike. When he was given his blue strider his Dad and I were skeptical. Ryan got his Strider for his 6th birthday, which, unfortunately is in November. Not optimal bike riding weather in South Dakota. Ryan rode his Strider throughout the house all winter. Dad and I decided that patching and painting walls was worth it. It took him a little while to get the hang of using his legs for movement while sitting on the seat but he finally mastered it.
What has his Strider done for Ryan? This bike has given our child so much and we are so thankful. Not only can Ryan ride his bike, he wants to. His bike has given him imaginative freedom. The strider has been a riding lawn mower, a garbage truck and a fire truck. The gross motor development has been huge – not only can he ride his Strider but his running, walking, jumping and all gross motor movements have gotten better and stronger.
If Ryan is playing outside he is usually on his Strider. The other day he was riding in a few inches of snow. Ryan wants to go on bike rides on the bike path and he is proud that he can ride his bike. The confidence that his Strider has given Ryan is priceless!
Keith and Erin (Ryan's parents)
Strider Bikes is proud to announce their partnership with The Friendship Circle of Michigan, a non-profit organization that provides programs and support to families and individuals with special needs.
For the third consecutive year Friendship Circle is holding the Great Bike Giveaway, a national contest giving away adaptive bikes to children with special needs. Bike companies from around the U.S. are donating bikes to the children and young adults who need them most, and Strider is excited to be able to join in on the fun!
Here’s how it works; Each bike page has a space where users can enter the contest. You can submit a picture of your child with special needs along with a short explanation of why your child needs an adaptive bike. One bike in each contest will be given away to the entry with the most nominations. Nominations are received from friends and family clicking the “nominate button” on your post. So share, share, and share some more!