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Calgary charity buys adaptive tricycles for local schools

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Students at several Calgary high schools are learning to ride special adaptive tricycles after a donation from Youth en Route.

Volunteers with the organization bought and assembled nine adaptive tricycles after learning in June that special education classes within the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) had just one of the specialty trikes to share between eight schools.

On Tuesday, students at Forest Lawn High School headed to the gymnasium to test out the trikes, which are designed for adults and larger kids who cannot, as a result of various challenges, ride a conventional bike.

The trikes were put to the test under the supervision of Mark Anderson, the school's assistant principal.

"Kids think it's kind of a treat to ride a bike inside the school," he said. "I do sometimes let them ride down the hallway, back to the bike room – if it's clear – so they view this as both fun and also something they've never done before, in terms of being inside of the school doing it."

Youth en Route took a survey at the Forest Lawn High School and learned that 11 per cent of students had never ridden a bicycle before.

Laura Shutiak, the executive director of Youth en Route, says wants to change that by making bicycles and tricycles available for students who want them.

The organization has donated many bikes to CBE schools over the last year and a half.

"Cycling is a life skill, it's something that everybody should know how to do," Shutiak said. "But for many of these kids, it's a mode of transportation, it's a way to get around and if you don't know how to ride, it's not an option for you."

Shutiak says once students and teachers have had a chance to evaluate the trikes they have, the charity will purchase more with the goal that all special education classes in the city can have access to the special trikes. 

"We've got bike fleets in five Calgary schools and there's more schools that want bikes," said Shutiak. "We've got schools that are setting up a bike loan (program) so that kids can take a bike if they need to go somewhere."

Glen Bishop is retired and has connected with the Forest Lawn Seniors in their Bike Shed program where volunteers refurbish donated bicycles that need a little maintenance before the kids can ride them.

He says he has assembled six of the new tricycles.

"I get to see these kids ride, and the smiles on their faces – and they're so happy and very proud of what they're achieving," he said. "It's wonderful, I can't even express how wonderful and heartfelt that is, fantastic."

To Learn more about Youth en Route you can visit the organization's website.

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