Share This Page

HITTING THE PAVEMENT

| Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Last spring, Connor Shilling, of Kittanning (center), received an adaptive bike from the Pittsburgh-based charity Variety’s My Bike Program, which provides adaptive bikes to children with disabilities. He received the bike with (from left) his pediatrician, Kenneth Keppel, his father, Steve Shilling, brother, Ryan Shilling and mother, Laura Shilling.

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.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.