Just because you can’t pedal a bike, doesn’t mean you can’t go for a bike ride. The YMCA’s Trail Buddies program is launching its second season. It’s designed to help people with special needs like seven year old Mallory Short who has cerebral palsy. “It’s a lot of fun,” said Mallory. “We get to see a lot of things like dogs and animals.”
Mallory sits in a special front seat that is mounted on the front of a specialized cycle called a Duet Bike. “It’s actually made in the Netherlands,” said YMCA Director of Adaptive Services Rebekah Coffey. “It has a seat in the front that kind of models a wheelchair. We have about 20 trained volunteers who will take the individual out for a ride out of our Jorgensen Family YMCA and through Kekionga Shores.”
“I’m the engine that runs this train,” said Todd Hammond, who pedals the Duet. “We get our rider safely in and strapped in and then I take them on a bike ride.”
To help the riders avoid bumps in the road, the program also provides a safety rider. “We walk or ride in front of the actual peddler and rider,” said Mona Will. “We do this to let them know about upcoming stones or bumps on the trail and then we call that out so they’re not bumping all over the place.”
Mallory has been steered through the bumps of life all her life. “When Mallory was little she had bad seizures,” said her mother Erika Walker. “Mallory had brain surgery when she was six months and then she had a repeat surgery at 16 months and they removed the entire left hemisphere of her brain to stop her seizures. It was successful but it left her with cerebral palsy. If she has a special needs bike and if she has some assistance, riding is something that she can do but not independently.”
The Trail Buddies Program is into its second season. In addition to riding, Trail Buddies also brings people together with an activity that creates social connections. This free, inclusive program allows adults and children to be pedaled by caring, trained volunteers. Cyclists pedal individuals ranging as young as 5 to 99+ who weigh 50 to 250 pounds. A membership to the YMCA is not required in order to participate.
Trail Buddies is only offered at the Jorgensen Family YMCA at 10313 Aboite Center Road. Rides take place around Aboite Trails/Indian Trails Park and Kekionga Shores so riders can enjoy the scenery. To sign up for a ride, contact Rebekah Coffey at 260-755-4961 or contact the YMCA.