Using duct tape used to be the only way 3-year-old Blake Stell could ride a tricycle.
Her legs would hyperextend because of her cerebral palsy and cause her feet to slip off the pedals.
There were other modifications her father, Geoff Stell, would have preferred to do to make the childhood pastime and rite of passage more accessible for his daughter, but it was beyond his skill level.
“It’s my hope that at some point, she’s not going to be a professional cycler, but that maybe she can do it on her own,” Stell said.
Blake is one of about 30 children with disabilities who were recently fitted for tricycles at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU with the hope that enough money will be raised to purchase them through REACHcycles, a new local chapter of a national nonprofit.
REACHcycles, which stands for Richmond Empowering Abilities for CHildren with cycles, will hold a poker run Saturday to help raise up to $25,000 for the specialized tricycles.
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Ambucs, the national organization, provides the adjustable and interchangeable seats, handlebars and other modifications. There are about 150 chapters across the nation, mostly in rural areas and the Midwest.
The Richmond chapter’s founder, James Howard, received a bike through The Little Red Dog Foundation and has ridden in several marathons since.
Howard, a medically retired Army captain, said some children can get a therapeutic bike through insurance if it is deemed medically necessary. The children they are fundraising for were rejected by their insurance and cannot afford the $300 to $1,000 specialized tricycles.
“There’s a huge gap,” Howard said. “There’s a real need out there for this.”
Howard’s mother, Nancy Wellons, heads up the other Virginia chapter, in Lynchburg.
The fundraiser Saturday will be a 40-mile motorcycle ride with stops at restaurants in Powhatan County and Midlothian. After about five hours, the bikers will join the nonbiker crowd at Caddy’s Restaurant for door prizes, raffles, a silent auction, music and karaoke.
Ashley Anderson of Glen Allen brought her 4-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, with her physical therapist, Melanie Gray, to the fitting event. She said her daughter is most happy when she’s moving around on her own — a hard feat when she’s on two legs.
“It’s also to get children to be social and mobile and so kids can be kids,” she said. “As a parent, for them to have the same things (as other children) is a good thing.”
As the city and region build more bike trails, the organization aims to include children with disabilities in the growth.
Blake’s pending tricycle has Velcro to keep her feet in place and a handlebar on the back of her seat so her father can help her along when she needs it.
Through physical and occupational therapy, Blake took her first step about six months ago at age 2½. Doctors told Blake’s mother, Jennifer, she would likely never walk.
“That’s not going to be Blake,” she said. “Every obstacle, she’s gotten through it.”
REACHcycles fundraising events
What: A 40-mile motorcycle ride in Powhatan County and Midlothian with stops at various restaurantsto benefit REACHcycles. For nonbikers, there will be door prizes, a 50-50 raffle, a silent auction, music and karaoke. Several already-fitted children will receive their tricycles at the event. Proceeds will go toward providing more tricycles.
When: Saturday. For bikers, 8 a.m.; for other supporters, 1 to 5 p.m.
Where: For bikers, Frisby’s Restaurant, 2150 Anderson Highway in Powhatan; for other supporters, Caddy’s Restaurant, 13312 Midlothian Turnpike in Midlothian.
Cost: $20 registration for motorcyclists.
Details: Contact James Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org or (540) 597-3186.
Summer Moon Music Festival
What: Center of the Universe Brewing Co. will host a regional band battle in which musicians compete for the charity of their choice. Buckville Hootenanny will be playing for REACHcycles.
When: 1 to 10 p.m. July 19.
Where: Center of the Universe Brewing Co., 11293 Air Park Road in Ashland.
Details: Visit www.reachcycles.org.
Lkebede@timesdispatch.com (804) 649-6243 Twitter: @kebedefaith