COLUMBUS -- Malaki Swantek took off on a tricycle down the sidewalk, his neon yellow-colored shoes pumping the pedals while he wore a smile on his face.
His stepmom, Jessica Swantek, watched the 7-year-old do something he was never able to do before -- ride a trike.
It was hard for her to hold back tears as she stood holding out her phone so she could make a video to send her husband, Jared.
“It took my breath away, being able to see him ride it so easily and by himself. I never thought it would happen,” she said.
Malaki has cerebral palsy, a movement and muscle disorder. He has been in therapy since he was 18-months-old to help him develop coordination and muscle tone. He is unable to walk on his own without assistance from a walker. He also hasn’t been able to fully participate in a family favorite activity of riding bikes during the summer.
Usually, Malaki is pushed in cart or walks with one of his parents. Sometimes his family just doesn’t go on bike rides because they don’t want to leave him out. But soon he will be joining them with his own therapeutic tricycle.
Malaki is one of eight children fitted for a special AmTryke tricycle Saturday at Wiggles and Giggles Therapy for Kids through funds raised by the annual We Can Run, Walk and Roll event hosted by Columbus Community Hospital. The 5K and one-mile event invites children and adults of all abilities to participate.
Malaki and his dad took part last year, with his dad pushing him a wheelchair.
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The money raised from participation is going toward paying for the tricycles, which can cost $250-$1,000. Bikes and Trykes of Central Nebraska, based out of Grand Island, brought several tricycles to Columbus for children to try out. After a fitting and a test run, trikes will be designed for each child and given to them in a few weeks.
Bikes and Trykes provides bikes for children and adults. It serves the area from York to Gothenburg and stretches from the Kansas and South Dakota borders.
The therapeutic tricycles help improve motor coordination, increase strength and improve balance. It also is a boost to self-esteem.
Malaki didn’t want to give up the trike he was riding because he was having too much fun.
“I’ll take this one,” he said after he was helped off the trike.
His mom said it would be difficult for her family, which also includes four other children, to afford a special trike. She said she is thankful to those who participated in the We Can Run, Walk and Roll and helped raise the money so Malaki could have his own bike.
Once he gets his new shiny, red trike and a helmet, Malaki said he will make good use of them both.
“I’m going to go around the block and ride with my family,” he said.