HARKER HEIGHTS — Wearing dark sunglasses and a black bike helmet, Jacob Bartlett, 13, resembled easy rider as he maneuvered his way through the mini-race track Saturday at the “Everyone Can Ride” bike rodeo at Carl Levin Park.
Jacob was born with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, which caused multiple developmental and physical disabilities, but his parents, Michelle and John Bartlett, got him involved with riding when he was 5.
“It helps stretch all his muscles and builds bone mass, so it’s a great thing,” Michelle Bartlett said.
The Harker Heights Parks and Recreation Department teamed up its adaptive sports program with the Cen-Tex Ambucs chapter to host the event for the first time.
“This is to encourage people, regardless of their disability level, that you can do something fun with your family, like riding a bike,” said Lori Briere, Heights recreation superintendent.
Donna Ingram, a pediatric physical therapist and president of Cen-Tex Ambucs, started the chapter four years ago to assist people with disabilities who can’t ride a traditional bike.
“We give people a specially designed tricycle called an AmTryke that helps improve their coordination and mobility,” Ingram said.
But she stressed the benefits are beyond therapeutic for riders and their families. “Parents really enjoy seeing their children do something that they couldn’t do otherwise,” she said.
The sun peeked through the clouds as children cycled around the chalk circles and raced each other. John Bartlett watched Jacob’s speed slowly increase, but cycling is not his only hobby.
“Jacob enjoys kayaking and riding four wheelers with me,” John Bartlett said.
Three-year-old Maddox Cooper recently started riding an AmTryke and he raced around on it with his parents, Lindsey and Mike Cooper, following behind.
“Maddox is developmentally delayed, but he’s a happy child and is a very determined, active, little boy,” Lindsey Cooper said.
Harker Heights Police Officer Dave Haley conducted bicycle safety for riders and did free bike registration.
“It’s unfortunate that most bikes that are lost or stolen never get returned to their owners because they weren’t registered,” Haley said.
Eight-year-old Diego Mercado, a first-grader at Meadows Elementary School, doesn’t see himself as different since he can do what other kids can do.
“I like to jump on my trampoline, play with my dog and ride my scooter,” he said.
Taking a rest before he continued riding, Jacob watched several videos with his mom on a portable DVD player.
“He won’t stay still for long, because he loves anything fast and Jacob has no fear,” Michelle Bartlett said.
For more information, go to centexambucs.com or call Donna Ingram at 254-258-5804.