FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Three seasons and going strong. Trail Buddies is a program that provides bike mobility for those with limited mobility. It’s holding a special picnic celebration this month for riders, pedalers and volunteers.
“I’m an avid bicyclist and I love to help people,” said Todd Hammond giving two of several reasons why he volunteers with the program. Last year WANE 15 caught up with him pedaling spunky little Mallory Short. “We got to ride bikes, I like riding bikes,” said Mallory.
Like all riders in the Trail Buddies program Mallory can’t ride by herself because she can’t pedal. That’s where Todd comes in. His title is peddler. “Mallory was a joy to work with. She loved being outdoors and being on the bike,” said Hammond. “It was such a joy to provide that opportunity for her. It’s something we take for granted, being independent. Her not being able to do that for herself and me being able to help her was a great reward.”
For three years Trail Buddies has been providing free bike rides to those with special needs of all ages. “I’ve pedaled people younger than Mallory and I’ve pedaled people in their 80’s who may had been avid bike riders but had to slow down because of a medical condition or heart problems,” said Hammond.
This year Mallory, riders, volunteers and others in Trail Buddies will all get to celebrate the program during a special event at Rockhill Park in Fort Wayne.
“This is our first picnic that we’ve ever had for Trail Buddies,” said Rebekah Coffey, Director of Adaptive Services for YMCA Greater Fort Wayne. “We’re going to have subs and people are going to bring food and we’re going to give rides to riders but also to their families so they can see what it’s like to experience the bike. It’s specially designed like a wheelchair so it functions like a wheel chair.”
For Mallory and others with special needs the wheelchair-like bike and the Trail Buddies program have been life changing. “When Mallory was little she had seizures really bad,” said Erica Walker, Mallory’s mother. “So she 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 however it left her with cerebral palsy. If she has a special needs bike and if she has some assistance this is something that she can do but not independently.”
The Trail Buddies picnic that will take place at Rockhill Park will expose Mallory and others to new trail trekking opportunities. “There’s a wonderful path nearby so we can give the riders a different scenery, a different route than they normally get when we go out of the Jorgenson YMCA and there’s an accessible playground and facilities so it’s a great time to socialize and all be together.”
Trail Buddies will hold its picnic Monday, August 19, 2019, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Rockhill Park Pavilion, off Catalpa Street. It is open to program members and anyone who is interested in volunteering. Information about Trail Buddies can be found on the YMCA website.