Children's Health Specialties

Beaumont Bicycle Program Improves Lives of Kids with Special Needs

Purple Bike Gives Royal Oak Girl Greater Independence

Although sunny blue skies set the scene, the day was all about the color purple.

It was a big day for Ali Plummer. She dressed in purple to match her new bike. Even her new helmet was decorated with purple stars.

                  Ali Plummer of Royal Oak

The eager 12-year-old couldn’t wait to test out her brand new bike, which was presented to her as part of the sixth annual Bike Day at Beaumont Health Center in Royal Oak. All of this was made possible by the Center for Children's Rehabilitation and generous support of the Children’s Miracle Network.

The Beaumont Children's Hospital program is designed to improve physical mobility by fitting dozens of children with special needs with bikes that will build strength and confidence. Every year on Bike Day nearly 50 custom-adapted bikes are given to children with special needs.

Ali received a bike because she was born prematurely with cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder that leaves her dizzy and causes balance issues. Throughout her life she has experienced tight leg muscles and has needed botox injections, leaving her in leg casts for several weeks at a time.

“The big thing with Ali has been balance,” Ali’s mom, Cheryl Plummer, says.“Between her cerebral palsy and the seizure disorder, it’s been just enough to keep her off balance.”

With all the out-of-pocket expenses for medical needs like orthopedic leg braces, having a bike to meet Ali’s needs wasn’t a possibility until now.

These custom-fitted bikes can range anywhere from $160 to $3,500, and can even reach $6,000 for larger, custom-fit bikes. Insurance doesn’t cover them, so they often aren’t an option for families of children with special needs. At Bike Day, the bikes are given as gifts to children who are recommended by their physical therapist, occupational therapist or doctor.

“This is such an incredible gift on so many levels,” Cheryl says.“Now that she’s in middle school she just wants to be like the other kids.”

Before her purple bike, Ali’s friends would come to her house and walk their bikes to the park with Ali so she wouldn’t feel bad.“Now I can ride with my friends to the park and it feels awesome,” Ali says.

“It’s nice that she will get a summer feeling more like a normal kid,” Cheryl says.

Ali has had bikes in the past, but she quickly outgrew the tricycle-style bikes. This new bike gives her room to grow because it’s a regular mountain bike minimally adjusted with specialized stabilizing wheels.

Wendy Nichols, a physical therapist assistant and coordinator of the event, works with four vendors to provide bikes to the children.

“It’s fun to see their reaction when they first get to take it home,” Wendy says.“It’s a fun way to do something to enhance their therapy.”

These bikes are not just a form of social interaction for these kids; they help strengthen muscle and allow mobility and independence.

“This helps Ali to be a typical kid,” Wendy says.

Ali looked like a typical kid full of excitement at the sight of a new bike. Her eyes lit up and she threw her arms up with enthusiasm as she geared up for her first ride. After a little coaching on brakes, Ali took off with unfaltering confidence, wind in her hair and a smile on her face, with the long road of summer ahead of her and her new purple bike.