THE BLOG

Nonprofit Bike Giveaway Will Help Hundreds of Kids With Special Needs

02/25/2015 07:04 pm ET | Updated Apr 27, 2015

Dawn Murdock just happened to be on Facebook when she saw that the Friendship Circle page had a post about the Great Bike Giveaway. She checked out the types of bicycles that would be given away, and knew that a Buddy Bike would be perfect for her son Kain. A Buddy Bike is a special bike outfitted for kids with special needs.

"I signed him up," Murdock said. "There was only two days left in the contest. Long shot, I know, but I did it anyway. By the first day he had enough votes to be entered in the drawing. And believe it or not, Kain won the bike."

Murdock explained that her 14-year-old son has a form of autism known as pervasive developmental disorder, and that his attempts to learn to ride a bike were frustrating for Kain due to his difficulties with motor skills. "When I saw the Buddy Bike it was perfect for Kain," Murdock said. "Kain sits in the front and helps peddle, but the adult steers and peddles from the back."

Cycling is a great way for anyone to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors. For many people with disabilities, an adaptive bike can offer a sense of freedom that they have never experienced before. I started cycling about seven years ago with an adaptive sports program in Philadelphia, and I know firsthand what an amazing feeling it is to get on my three-wheel cycle and leave everything else behind. I also know how lucky I was to find a cycle that fit my needs -- and my budget.

Friendship Circle is an organization in Michigan that serves the disability community with a goal of providing support to families with children who have special needs. The organization gave away the first bikes in 2012, according to Tzvi Schectman who directs the program and is the Family Coordinator at Friendship Circle. The contest has resulted in more than 150 adaptive bikes a year given away since it launched three years ago. Schectman says they hope to giveaway 300 more bikes this year.

And it all started with one man's desire to fulfill a promise to pay forward the generosity of a stranger who gave him a bike as a kid.

Mikhail Reytsman and his family were in the United States for less than a year when he was nominated to receive a bike from a man looking to pay it forward with the gift of a bicycle that he'd received from his stepfather as a child. The only condition was that Reytsman promise to give a bike away to someone else by the time he turned 30. When the time came, an acquaintance suggested he contact Friendship Circle to find a recipient for the bike he wanted to give away. Reytsman wasn't deterred by the prospect of giving away an adaptive bike, which can be more expensive than a typical bike.

"I didn't even realize the specifics," he said. After the initial offer, "Friendship Circle asked me if I could sponsor a more expensive [adaptive] bike and I said that as long as the kid needs it and it's not thousands of dollars it shouldn't be a problem."

Excited by the offer to giveaway a bike, the staff at Friendship Circle wanted to include more kids.

"We really didn't know what we should do," Schectman said. "We started thinking of potential children who could really use a bike, but we kept on saying, 'How can we give it to one child over another?' From there we decided to see if we could give away more than one bike and turn it into a contest."

Sponsors and donations have helped build the contest into what it is today. This year's contest is open and entrees can be submitted until midday on March 3. The contest is open to anyone in the continental United States under the age of 30 with a special need.

"I would never have been able to get my son this bike," Murdock said, pointing out, as she put it, how "spendy" adaptive bikes can be. "I am truly thankful for all that have donated and spent their time on this contest. It is a true blessing."

This article originally appeared on The Mobility Resource.