HITTING THE PAVEMENT
Twelve-year-old Connor Schilling just wanted to ride a bike in 2013.
Connor, who lives in Kittanning, has been through a lot in his short life, which made biking difficult.
He has Down syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and pervasive development disorder — which is part of the autism spectrum — and sensory issues, said his mother, Laura Schilling.
In addition, he was born with a heart defect and had to have corrective surgery at 2 months old.
But in April, Connor finally got to take a ride when he received a royal blue adaptive bike from the “My Bike” program, sponsored by Variety, a Pittsburgh-based children's charity.
Connor started on a tricycle with a modified seat, but he didn't have the lower body strength to pedal it. Laura Schilling and Connor's father, Steve, hooked a trailer bicycle onto his brother Ryan's bicycle so he could ride along — to no avail.
Their final attempt was a tandem bicycle so Connor could ride along with Ryan. But his feet couldn't reach the pedals, and Laura Schilling was afraid he would get caught in the bike's chain.
The Schilling family first heard of the My Bike program from the Down Syndrome Clinic at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh and through Connor's school, Clelian Heights School for Exceptional Children in Greensburg.
“When I heard about the program, I jumped because I knew it would be adaptive, so the bike would be just right for him,” Laura Shilling said.
Laura Shilling said she was thrilled when Variety approved Connor's application for a bike. She wanted him to be surprised when they gave him the bike in ACMH Hospital. But Connor caught on quickly when he saw his friends and the bikes.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Bike,' and made a hand motion like holding handlebars,” Schilling said. “He knew right away why he was there and that a bike was going to be his.”
Variety began the My Bike program in November 2012. It has distributed 385 bicycles, including 28 in Armstrong County.
Each one is customized with safety features for each child and is designed based on the child's disability, according to Variety CEO Charlie LaVallee.
Connor's adaptive bike has three wheels, a large seat, safety harnesses and modified handlebars, Shilling said.
Each bike costs $1,800 and is paid for through sponsorships, LaVallee said.
The organization has 140 adaptive bikes ready to be distributed, he said.
LaVallee said that donations can be designated by county.
“The whole dynamic of being able to do things together, with friends and family, and not being left out is what we're all about,” he said. “If everybody is riding their bike, and you can ride despite your disabilities, you're just another kid.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
- Conflicting stories leave police seeking answers in Ford City shooting
- 6 high school bands marching in West Shamokin at annual show
- Apple butter festival keeps tradition alive
- Proposals submitted for use of Armstrong’s federal grant money
- Mobile barbecue vendor opening storefront in West Kittanning
- Couple ends long, fruitful work on Ford City library board
- Church to help longtime Dayton businessman get bikes out of the brush
- Fall colors, Allegheny River the stars of Armstrong Tourist Bureau cruise
- Ford City program educates children about fire safety
- CWM Environmental building headquarters at East Franklin industrial park
- FirstEnergy employees picket but keep working