Into the wind
By Kate Burke
Peyton, 11, and his brother Parker, 10, both like speed, said their parents, Chad and Julie Hoffman. Both boys are confined to wheelchairs as a result of a genetic neurotransmitter disorder.
Until now, walking speed was about the fastest they could go in the open air. They loved rides on the family’s pontoon boat on local sandpits, but that couldn’t be an everyday activity.
Then Julie spotted a short article in “Exceptional Parent” magazine. It described a bicycle modified with a platform for wheelchairs. Cycling could be a family activity.
The need for two of the “Carebikes” pressed the family budget, so the Hoffmans turned to Make-a-Wish Foundation of Nebraska.
The foundation and volunteer Wish Granter Ric Horton were able to act swiftly on the Hoffmans’ wish, and on Saturday, Feb. 27, Carebike inventor Rob Holl personally delivered the matched set to the family at the Holthus Field House on the York College campus.
Holl, based in Florida, takes a personal interest in every aspect of his product. He developed the Carebike to facilitate healthy exercise with his own daughter, Megan.
Holl knew from personal experience how confined a family’s world can become as the primary caregivers for a disabled loved one. When Megan reached her early twenties, the family reluctantly placed her in a group home.
Holl said he was advised by a well-meaning social worker that the move would allow his own life to become “larger.”
Holl said, “So I was out praying and walking and looking for my larger life,” when he saw a German-made wheelchair bike in the park.
A big sports fan and an active man himself, Holl knew at once how he could stay close with Megan and help other families “out of that confined place.”
On Holl’s Carebike, the front wheel fork of a 21-speed bike is removed and retrofitted with an anodized aluminum platform large enough to accommodate most wheelchairs.
With bike wheels on the left and right sides and a flip-down ramp on the front, a wheelchair can be backed onto the platform and secured.
A caregiver or companion pedals the bike and steers. Disc brakes give the bike extra stopping power.
Holl made adjustments to two, Husker-red Carebikes and gave a few riding and maintenance tips to the Hoffmans before the family set off for a test ride around the large, open floor of the field house.
Peyton’s grin grew wider as his dad zoomed about. Parker relaxed and closed his eyes into the rush of air.
Back at their starting point, Chad Hoffman stopped alongside Holl and said, “They’re awesome.”
A small crowd, including the brothers’ older sister, Paige, and some of their classmates and teachers from York Elementary and Middle Schools, took turns trying out the Carebikes.
Julie Hoffman repeated her thanks to Holl and Horton.
“This is another good reason for us to get in shape,” she said with a smile.
For more information about Carebikes, visit www.carebikes.com.