A group of children on Saturday navigated around the track of the Columbus Wellness Center riding AmTryke prototypes in an effort to get a feel for what their own customization needs were.

AmTryke provides adaptive bicycles, tricycles and accessories for individuals of all ages and abilities who are unable to operate a traditional bicycle, according to information from the company’s website. The annual fitting event serves as a three-tiered partnership that ultimately results in Columbus-area children with special needs receiving an AmTryke at zero expense to their families.

Wiggles and Giggles Therapy for Kids, Columbus Community Hospital and Bikes & Trykes of Central Nebraska align their efforts to make this campaign a success. This year, seven AmTrykes are being distributed. Funds for the customized rides are once again being raised through CCH’s annual ‘We Can Run, Walk & Roll’ event being held in September.

The goal is for recipients of the AmTrykes to participate in the 5K and 1-mile race intended for everyone – from beginners to competitive joggers, runners, walkers and individuals who use wheelchairs - according to information provided by the hospital.

The real goal of providing adaptive tricycles to children is to provide them with an opportunity to participate more fully in health and wellness activities. The adjustments and modifications tailor-made for recipients enable them to not only have fun with their new ride but to also develop more strength throughout their bodies.

"A lot of individuals who receive them, obviously, can’t ride a traditional bike,” said Therese Chase, a physical therapist for Wiggles & Giggles. “So we are looking at cardiovascular benefits, strength benefits, endurance, and really being able to keep up with their peers and family members.”

Since the inception of ‘We Can Run, Walk & Roll’ in 2011, more than 45 AmTrykes have been purchased and provided to area youth. With the average AmTryke costing anywhere between $600 and $1,600, this has tremendously lessened the burden for families looking for a way to assist a loved one.

“I definitely can’t afford a $1,600 bike,” said Melissa Praught while her daughter, 7-year-old Abbie, was being fitted for an AmTryke. “… And this is great because it will help strengthen her legs and her core muscles. She tends to walk a little bow-legged and this will help to maybe bring her stance in some.”

David Andrews, president of Bikes & Trykes of Central Nebraska, noted how AmTrykes can be taken anywhere and treated like a normal bicycle. However, he noted the main appeal is their therapeutic qualities.

“We have a young man in Shelton who uses a hand-driven bike – he’s a paraplegic,” Andrews said. “So he can, for his upper-body strength, use the hand-driven … We have hand-driven, foot-driven, hand- and foot-driven. They can be left-side or right-side driven, they can have a rear-steerer … Really anything.”

Andrews said that the nonprofit organization currently has five volunteers who work in Central Nebraska, spanning from Gothenburg to York and from the Kansas to South Dakota border.

“Columbus is just outside of our area, but the Wiggles & Giggles physical therapy group does their fundraiser each year, and we bring the bikes (AmTrykes) out each year and they fit them,” Andrews said. “We sell them to them at our cost, because we get them a little cheaper since we are a 501(c) 3 (nonprofit).

"… It’s been a great partnership, and the therapists just do an outstanding job. They are very caring people.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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