Groups partner to donate adaptive bicycle to Millvale boy
Connor Schueler, 11, received a red ribbon-adorned bicycle on June 21. The gift is especially meaningful because it is the first bike he is able to ride.
Connor, who has Down syndrome, received the Rifton adaptive bicycle through Variety the Children's Charity. The Shaler Area Rotary Club raised the funds for the $1,800 bike at its annual golf outing held at Hampton's Wildwood Golf Club.
Connor's mother, Susan Schueler, said she and her husband, Steve, have tried assisting their son while he uses a traditional bike or one with training wheels, but those aren't practical; he also is outgrowing standard tricycles.
Each three-wheeled Variety bike is equipped with a seat belt, large seat and an arm for a helper to use for steering.
For the first time, he recently was able to enjoy cycling around his Millvale neighborhood with siblings Jen, 13, and Stevie, 14.
“It was really an awesome sight to see that he was finally included with the kids — that he didn't have to sit on the sidelines and just watch. He could actually get up there and ride there with them.”
“All I ever wanted for Connor was for him to be treated like everyone else, not to be treated differently. And now we feel like with this bike, he doesn't have to be treated differently; he's included.”
Through a partnership with Variety, the Shaler Area Rotary distributed 2,500 handouts to children within the Shaler Area School District about the nonprofit's “My Bike” program.
“The big thing about Rotary is that our motto is service before self … and it's kind of a think tank of neighbors and friends and business folks of how we can make a positive impact in our community,” Shaler Area Rotary President Clint Cable said.
Evan Buchheit, 22, of Carrick, spoke at the club's golf outing regarding the impact “My Bike” program has had on his brother Jacob, 20, who has cerebral palsy.
“He gets to have some independence of being able to go out and get therapy and a little bit of a workout in and have a good time while he does it,” he said.
“The bike gives him fun because we use the trails down through South Side. We use the Great Allegheny Passage and we just get on it at a different spot each time to see something different and him and I are able to ride together,” their mother, Eileen Buchheit said.
“Whenever we do our golf outings, it's kind of nice to have a name and a picture to what you're trying to do rather than just trying to say, ‘Oh, we're doing a project.' So this fit really nice. It feels good to be able to help and know that it's making an impact where you live and work,” said Cable, of Shaler.
Variety CEO Charlie LaVallee, of Pine, said riding a bike instills a sense of pride in the program recipients.
“The “My Bike” program enables children with disabilities to participate in a fundamental, typical childhood experience. It ensures that they are not left behind. And what I have found, over and over again, is we have given kids the opportunity to have fun.”
Additionally, the Wexford-based nonprofit offers “My Stroller” — an adaptive stroller — and “My Voice,” a communication device and app.
“My Bike” guidelines require an income below $64,960 for a two-member household, $81,680 for three-members, $98,400 for four, $115,120 for five, $131,840 for six, $148,560 for seven and $165,280 for eight.
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.