Monday, September 16, 2013

Adaptive Bicycling

Stay with me....I promise I will get to the bicycling.  :-)

Some people would say boating is a luxury. With that said, water skiing could be considered an extreme sport/activity. In order to water ski, you need a lot of things to happen. First, you need a body of water. Living in the Chattanooga area, that is not an issue. I live only a couple minutes from the lake and work at a marina. Next, you must have a boat. This is a huge expense that not everyone can afford. (I have access to boats but do not own a boat.) Even with water and a boat, you still can't ski!!  You must have the necessary equipment in order to ski. Honestly, I'm not even sure what all that entails. I know you need a life jacket, ski, ski rope, and some harness (or something) to attach the rope to the boat. Surely, I'm leaving something out. 

I tell you all this because SPARC provides all these things (and more) for individuals with disabilities in the Chattanooga area. SPARC allowed me to participate in an extreme activity that I thought I would never be able to do again. I want you to know that I I had a blast water skiing and I don't want what I say next to take away from that. 

My family used to enjoy many different lake activities over the years.  As my LGMD2B progressed, letting go of these lake activities was pretty easy because I realized what a luxury it was. I was fortunate to have those old memories and experiences tucked away in my mind. It's not so hard to let go of something that most Americas have never participated in. 

What is hard, is to letting go of something that almost everyone has experienced....riding a bike. I have wonderful childhood memories of riding my bike all over our neighborhood. And taking my bike with us when we would go camping as a family. I rode my bike everywhere!! To let go of something that was such a large part of your childhood, something that you will never be able to do with your child, now that's hard, but I made peace with that fact some time ago. 

Last Monday, SPARC once again preformed a miracle (in my opinion). I rode a bike, with my husband and our daughter!!  I don't have the words to tell you how absolutely amazing it was to share that experience with my family. Bike riding with my daughter was just another activity I thought I would have to miss out on. How wrong I was!!  Thanks to the outstanding people who are apart of the SPARC program, my family can now be like so many others and enjoy a long lived American family tradition, bicycling. 

The greatest thing about SPARC is the volunteers!  Everyone there wants to help and they really do!! I always worry about Jeremy having to pick me up. I worry about his back. I don't want him to hurt himself when he is helping me. Last Monday, I didn't have worry about that at all because two of the volunteers transferred me from my wheelchair to the bike. I know Jeremy doesn't mind having to help me but I'm so glad he got a break, even if it was only for a few hours. 

I was placed on a two person bike where you sit side by side. Both bikers can pedal, brake, and steer. Talk about sharing control!! I first rode with Jerry (he and his wife Debbie are in charge of SPARC) and another volunteer followed us to make sure we didn't have any problems. Jerry is such a sweetheart!!  He wanted to make sure I was doing okay the whole time. We had to stop and adjust my seat a couple of times because I was having a hard time trying to pedal. Once I started getting the hang of it, Jeremy took over for Jerry. 
By this point I was getting fairly good at pedaling. After so many years, being back on a bike was exhilarating.  Granted, I wasn't doing it by myself, it was team work. And really, isn't that what life is all about? Working together with others for a positive outcome? 

My bike ride last Monday wasn't how I remembered riding a bike as a child, it was so much better because I was able to do it with my husband and our daughter. We giggled together as a family. We made new memories on that bike. A week later and I'm still smiling because this is an activity we can do together every other Monday with our new SPARC family. 
Both the adaptive water skiing and adaptive bicycling were truly an unforgettable experience because of the volunteers at SPARC. The time that they volunteer really does make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities in the Chattanooga area. Thank you seems so insufficient for all the hard work they give to strangers for no pay.  SPARC is a nonprofit organization we should all support anyway we can.  They have allowed this girl to enjoy an extreme sport and an American family tradition.  Thank you so much for these fabulous experiences!!  We are over the moon to be a new part of the SPARC family.