The first time Natalie Linehan rode her new special bike all by herself, she turned to her mother Sandy Couger and shouted “look mom, no hands!”
“That was really the most gratifying moment,” Couger said.
“To see her riding by herself for the first time and to be just like any other kid on a bike and letting go of the handlebars.”
Natalie Linehan is six years old and has developmental issues that affect her co-ordination. As a result, she can’t ride a regular bike without help and constant supervision and has had to re-teach herself to ride every spring.
When Natalie asked to go for a bike ride with a friend last summer, Couger started thinking about what kind of preparation and effort it would take to make something so seemingly simple happen. She decided to look into new options.
“I just wanted her to be able to ride a bike without needing all kinds of help,” she said. “To be able to go for a ride with a friend and not have it be a big ordeal for the whole family.”
Couger researched special bikes that would allow Natalie more independence, and along with local occupational therapist Andrea Pittman, found the right fit.
The tricycle, however, was more than the family could afford, so Couger wrote to the local Elks Club for help.
“We try to help with whatever we can, where we can,” said Steve Anderson, the Elks Club member instrumental in getting the bike.
“You always remember your first bike – the colour, riding it around everywhere – and we’re so proud to be able to help make that happen.”
The bike had to be shipped in from the United States and, in total, cost the Elks about $2,000. It will enable Natalie to be more independent when she is playing and hanging out with her friends, and will help her improve her motor skills and co-ordination.
“I can’t wait to see her riding it around this spring,” said Anderson.
Couger maintains getting the bike was a community effort, with the Elks and Pittman at occupation therapy both playing important roles.
“It’s been a long process,” she said. “But it’s been a real team effort. Seeing her riding all by herself … it was just the best thing.”
As for Natalie, she only had one request of her new ride.
“I wanted it to be pink,” she said.