Special Bikes for Special Kids: Making Dreams Come True at SHC

As kids grow up they dream of independence: meeting
up with friends after school, frequenting the local candy store, or playing outside until it gets dark. For some patients at the Chicago Shriners Hospital, that dream means riding a bike. Because certain physical conditions require an adaptive bike, however, this simple childhood task may seem impossible. That is where Special Bikes for Special Kids (SBSK) steps in.

In early 2010 Director of the Recreation Therapy and Child Life Department Darlene Kelly saw a need for adaptive bicycles for patients. “Many of our patients need adaptive bikes, and every kid deserves one. However, they’re expensive,” says Darlene, “Finances shouldn’t prevent a child from having a bike…we needed a solution.” SHC began putting together a policy to help patients obtain adaptive bicycles, soon titled Special Bikes for Special Kids. In 2011 applications for bikes were accepted and reviewed by a team of non-clinical SHC staff. Names of applicants were removed to keep the selection fair and unbiased. At the end of 2011,two patients received bikes: 8-year-old Alec and 9-year-old Austin.

“The applications and letters from patients are extremely real and touching,” says Amanda Loomis, recreation therapist. “The need and want for a bike is there, of course, and you really get a sense of how these bikes will change kids’ lives.”

The outcomes of giving a patient a bike tie-in with recreation therapy goals, such as increasing socialization with family and friends and physical
benefits (e.g. increased range of motion and muscle strength). Additionally, patients feel a new sense of independence because they can move faster and are focused on what they can do, not what they’re not able to do. They can ride their bike to school and it affords them more opportunities.

If you would like to be a part of Special Bikes for Special Kids, you can help by donating funds which will purchase bikes and accessories (contact Darlene Kelly at dkelly@shrinenet.org). While the hospital is not looking to take old or refurbished bikes, they do work closely with two companies to ensure new bikes are specifically adapted for individual patient needs. A big thanks to our recreation therapists Darlene, Amanda and Brad, and the SHC team who work to make the dream of owning a bikea reality for many children.



William R Kuehn
Chairman of the Board of Governors, SHC – Chicago
Shriners Hospitals for Children®
January 2012


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