AMBUCS mission pedals forward

By Rachael Lenhart

Close your eyes, and think back to the moment you received your first bike.

Do you remember the color? How about the wind in your face when you took off from your parents into your new-found freedom? Did you brag about to your friends at school the next day?

This is just one piece of the puzzle the Altoona chapter of AMBUCS provides to individuals with disabilities in our area. I could sit here and outline our mission statement, or I can simply say, we deliver smiles — the biggest smiles from ear to ear you’ve ever seen on the faces of not only our recipients, but their siblings, parents, grandparents, caregivers and therapists.

Since the inception of our local affiliation on July 26, 1925, Altoona Chapter of AMBUCS has been providing independence and mobility to people with disabilities in Blair County through a number of initiatives.

In the early years of our 501(c) 3 organization, we donated most our money to Easter Seals of Blair County. Our contributions were used to provide much needed physical, occupational and speech therapies to families who otherwise would not have been able to afford these services.

Fast forward to 1995, when the AmTryke program was introduced. This became one of the main focuses of the organization.

An AmTryke is a therapeutic tricycle that is adapted to each and every individual by a therapist to meet the mobility needs of the rider.

We would not be able to provide AmTrykes if we did not have educated therapists (occupational, physical, speech) to equip these deserving riders. AMBUCS provides scholarships to these therapists at the local and national levels.

Locally, we give up to $1,000 annually and on the national level, hundreds of thousands of dollars are awarded annually.

Most people take their mobility for granted. The recipients of theses precious gifts enjoy every millisecond of freedom and mobility they get from their personalized therapeutic AmTrykes.

When our club presents an AmTryke to a new rider, always surrounded by their family and therapist, it is hard to find a dry eye in the room. It is such an inspiring moment, even for the club members knowing their volunteer and fundraising efforts are making such an impact the lives of so many people in our area.

I will leave you with Hannah’s story; you may want to grab a tissue.

From the moment Hannah was born, she was fighting for her life in Pittsburgh with her family by her side. She endured a number of surgeries within the first few years of her life. As she developed and continued daily physical therapy, she was not able to gain enough strength and mobility to walk.

One of Hannah’s therapists decided to try using a therapeutic bike, which was in Pittsburgh. The only problem was Hannah’s family lived in Bedford County, about two hours away.

Marcy, Hannah’s mother, drove her into Pittsburgh multiple times a week for this therapy because Hannah was beginning to learn to walk. Hannah was finally walking and the bike therapy was stopped. Slowly, over time, Hannah began to lose her strength and ability to walk.

Marcy started another crusade to find her daughter a therapeutic bike. She applied to seven different organizations for an adaptable bike her daughter could use to regain her ability to walk, she was denied by them all for various reasons.

Then an angel walked into their lives. Hannah changed physical therapists, and her new therapist was a former AMBUCS member.

The Altoona chapter of AMBUCS received her application, ordered her bike and gave it to her, free of charge, on the field before an Altoona Curve game last April. Since then, Hannah has regained her strength and mobility and is able to walk short distances, all because of this AmTryke, and a therapist who was able to connect the dots in her journey to mobility.

Marcy spoke to our club in October and referred to our generosity as “their miracle.”

If you would like to find out more about the mission of AMBUCS you can join us for our weekly luncheon meetings at 12:15 p.m. Tuesdays at Park Hills Golf Club.

You can find us on the web at www.ambucsaltoona.com, or email us at info@ambucs altoona.com.

Rachael Lenhart is president of the Altoona chapter of AMBUCS.