RICHMOND, Va. -- Two dozen children will soon be pedaling their way to a more independent life thanks to volunteers and a very special man who have gone the extra mile to put freedom within their reach.
Richmond Empowering Abilities for Children with Cycles or REACHcycles provides adapted hand cycles for disabled children and veterans.
“It’s extremely important in this area and any area to provide mobility and freedom for these children to get out and do recreation and do things beyond their disability,” REACHcycles President James Howard said. "It’s just another level of independence and quality of life that’s provided with these cycles to get out with others with disabilities [and] learn from them.”
Howard, who moved to Richmond in October, started the nonprofit with just five cycles in May.
“I actually received an adapted hand cycle myself at a disabled veterans event three years ago," Howard explained.
Howard said that bike gave him a new sense of inspiration and independence.
“I have that freedom and ability to get out do something on my own, be independent. And be around others doing the same thing helped me move forward with my injury and seeing that made me want to provide that for others too,” Howard said.
The group partnered with Journey Church on Sunday to help assemble 23 bikes, which will be distributed Monday to disabled children and their families.
The group of volunteers, which included more than 60 VCU Medical Center students, helped customize each bike for a special child.
“They are fitted and evaluated to based on their disease or disability to have the best chair that fits them comfortably and give them the proper safety to operate the cycle,” Howard said.
Howard hopes the cycles will help the children as they helped him four years ago. Looking back, he sees just how meaningful the bikes can be, and how they helped him move forward with his injury.
"The little things like this that mean so much and meant so much to me four years ago," he said.