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Strider Sparks Special Education Teacher into Action

Sometimes an email makes you grimace, other times you smile with delight. When Ann at Strider received the below from Special Education teacher Monti Poulson, she had no idea the fire she had sparked. Monti has taken giant leaps with her students on Strider Bikes. And it all started with this email to Ann …

”I appreciated your enthusiasm so much-you lit a fire under me and I’ve planned 5 camps this summer …You’re AwEsOmE!!  I had tried talking to many people for months to get this all going and you were the only person who gave me a plan and made me believe I could do it. Thank You!!”

Monti is an incredible woman who knows how to pursue her dreams. She thought about being a Special Education teacher after high school, but life took her in another direction. She got married, had five children, and spent 20 years as a realtor before going to college and earning her hard-earned degree.

For the past three years, Monti taught Severe Special Education at Mt. Nebo Jr. High in Payson, Utah, where she worked with individuals who have Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities. She is now teaching students 18 to 21 years old at Dan Peterson School in American Forks, Utah, a school for individuals with severe special needs.

After learning about Strider Balance Bikes, Monti submitted and won a Select 25 Grant from Select Health, the insurance arm of Intermountain Healthcare, to buy several 16” and 20” Strider Bikes in June 2016.

With the bikes, Monti started the school’s first bike program and has encouraged over 40 people with disabilities to learn to ride. More than 12 are planning to participate in the Special Needs Race at the 2017 Strider Cup World Championship in Salt Lake City on July 21-22. Intermountain LDS Hospital was a Class Sponsor at last year’s Strider Cup Race, and is a Class Sponsor for both the two and three year old riders at this year’s Strider Cup World Championship.

“These kids get so few opportunities to compete in an event,” said Monti. “Sometimes the Special Olympics programs are too high functioning. Learning to ride a bike is changing and enriching their lives.”

She added, “It is such a good thing that Strider has done. With the bikes, we’ve been able to create recreational opportunities for them. Biking is a good leisure activity with health benefits.”

As part of the bike program, Monti encourages families check out bikes and ride together, sharing, “When parents ride with their child, they learn faster and it works much better.”

Through the Utah State 4-H extension, she started the Ability Buddies 4-H Club, which pairs an age-appropriate buddy with each child who has disabilities.

“Some students may use Strider Bikes for rest of their lives, which is wonderful,” Monti added. “Others have gone on and are riding pedal bikes. One rides like the wind on his pedal bike. No training wheels needed.”

This isn’t the first time Monti has taken a giant leap with a new program. At a previous school, she secured a grant for an archery program. More than 200 kids have been involved since its inception.

Monti is certain of the potential to expand the Strider Bike program at all the schools she works with and to improve the lives of even more young people.

“We would love to have more bikes to train more kids,” she said. “we have 12 students planning to race in the Strider Cup World Championship, but will be taking more if I can get more Strider Bikes. There is no shortage of students who have learned how to ride these bikes that would love to come and compete.”

We don’t doubt that potential – and Monti’s fire and enthusiasm to make it happen. 

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World Down Syndrome Day and Strider Bikes

Per its official website, World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), observed on March 21st every year, is a “global awareness day which has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. The date for WDSD being the 21st day of the 3rd month, was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome.” 

As I reflect on working with Strider Bikes to share stories of their special needs outreach, four extraordinary individuals come to mind.

Marissa with MoxieStrider Special Needs Race SF 2016

When I met Marissa, the word “moxie” popped into my head. Dictionary.com defines it has having “courage, nerve or vigor.” Marissa has all three – to the max – and arrived pumped up to participate in the 2016 Strider Cup World Championship.

Her mom, Mary, said when Marissa first got her Strider Bike four months before the race, she was afraid of bikes due to previous bad experiences with pedal bikes. It didn’t take long for Marissa to master her balance on the no-pedal Strider balance bike with enough skill and speed to win the world title. Her mom also said riding the Strider helped her lose 25 pounds in the last year and improve her endurance.

See Marissa leading the pack and holding her trophy high on the podium in this 2016 Strider World Championship recap video. (special needs racing starts at 1:25”)

Best Friends Ali and Grady

Ali leading GradyI’ll never forget meeting Ali and Grady at the 2015 Strider Cup World Championship. Their teacher, Amy, told me the two were best buddies and had greatly improved their balance skills riding Strider Bikes in and outside the classroom. The smiles on their faces were contagious, as they teased each other about who would win.

From the starting gate, Ali led the entire race, striding along with her swift, long legs. As I watched her determined grin, I remembered Amy telling me that many folks have no idea about the challenges people with special needs have learning to ride a bike – a milestone many take for granted. 

At the end of the race, Grady managed to push just a bit harder, thundering by Ali in the last few feet to take the top podium spot. They both won, though. The independence and confidence of starting on a Strider Bike has helped each transition to pedal bikes. More on Ali, Grady and Amy in the article, 5 Areas of Impact STRIDER Bikes Have with My Special Education Students.

Ryan McFarland

Ryan is a man I admire greatly. He founded Strider Bikes in 2007. Strider has sold over 1.5 million no-pedal, balance bikes, mostly the 12” models, for kids 5 and under. Ryan decided a few years ago to create larger sizes (16” model and 20” model) for older children and adults with balance and coordination challenges. The bikes have changed the lives of hundreds of individuals with Down syndrome, such as Marissa, Ali and Grady.

Ryan is also one of the most philanthropic CEO’s I know. To date, Strider has donated over $850,000 in cash and bikes to organizations that serve children and adults in need. Strider formalized its benevolence commitment with the creation of The Rider Fund, first introduced June 2014 at the Special Olympics USA Games. Since then, Strider has committed one percent of gross revenue from all sales worldwide to this fund. Last year, the Governor of South Dakota  presented Strider with a Distinguished Service Award for helping individuals with special needs.

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Strider Education Foundation

For more information visit www.StriderEducationFoundation.org.

Each of the 2017 Strider Cup Races will have Special Needs Races, and the entry fee is waived for those participants. The races are in Fort Worth, Texas (May 6); Pittsburgh, PA (May 27); Lincoln, NE (June 10); and the Strider Cup World Championship in Salt Lake City (July 21-22). Information on signing up a racer with special needs is at 2017 Strider Cup – Special Needs Racing.

 

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2017 Strider Cup – Special Needs Racing

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Join us for the 2017 Strider Cup® races!

 

The Strider Cup races are an opportunity for individuals of all abilities to enjoy some friendly competition. There are several Strider Cup races held internationally each year, three in the United States, and one Strider Cup World Championship which will be held in Salt Lake City, UT on July 22, 2017.

Each stop on the 2017 Strider Cup race series will also include races for individuals with Special Needs of all ages! We are working with local Special Olympics groups to get kids involved, but the races are open to any Strider rider with special needs. To register please send an email to education@striderbikes.com

Strider Cup

Fort Worth, TX
May 6, 2017

More Information

 

Strider Cup

Pittsburgh, PA
May 27, 2017

More Information

 

Strider Cup

Lincoln, NE
June 10, 2017

More Information

 

Strider Cup World Championship

Salt Lake City, UT
July 22, 2017

More Information

 

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Highlights from the special needs race at the 2014 Strider World Championship!

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The Strider Cup races are an opportunity for individuals of every ability to enjoy some friendly competition. There are several Strider Cup Races held internationally each year as well as four in the United States and one Strider Cup World Championship which will be help in Salt Lake City, UT in July 2016.

Each stop on the 2017 STRIDER Championship Series will also include races for individuals with Special Needs toddler to adult! We are working with local Special Olympics groups to get kids involved, butthe races are open to any STRIDER Rider with Special Needs. To register please send an email toeducation@striderbikes.com

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikNo1-cuWfM&w=853&h=480]

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Asher Nash is Down Right Perfect!

Ashers Down Right Perfect

                                                                                 Photo Credit: Crystal Barbee Photography

If you’ve been on Facebook in the last 3 months you’ve probably seen a picture of Asher Nash! His Mom, Meagan, submitted some photos to a casting agency to hopefully land a photoshoot with Carter’s. The agency didn’t submit them because they hadn’t specifically asked for a model with “special needs”. Meagan decided to post the story on Facebook and it went viral! 

As a company that values our Strider riders of all abilities we wanted to highlight Asher’s story and hopefully add to the larger dialogue on inclusion. We asked his Mom some questions and she shared a great photo of him (below) trying out the new Strider rocking base! We have no doubt that soon he’ll be striding around with that perfect little smile!

Strider (S): Tell us a little about your family.
Meagan Nash (MN): We live in Buford , Ga. My husband is 31 and works in glass, and I’m 27 and am a stay at home mom. Our daughter Addison is 8. She’s a competition cheerleader, and is also in a STEM and robotics club. Addison is a huge advocate for her brother and the Down Syndrome community. Asher is 15 months and loves to laugh and play with his toys. We love to go camping and our family vacation spot is the beach.

S: Would you tell us a little about Asher’s diagnosis?
MN: We found out Asher would have Down Syndrome when we were 12 weeks pregnant. Down syndrome, also known as Trisomy 21, is an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. This extra genetic material manifests itself in a number of ways, most notably intellectual and developmental delays, and recognizable physical characteristics.

AsherRockingBaseQuoteS: How does Asher’s diagnosis impact his life?
MN: Asher’s diagnosis impacts his life in many ways. It means he might look a little different then other babies –Or that hitting his milestones will be challenging at times. One thing it doesn’t do is define who he is as a person. Asher will do whatever it is he wants to do in his life.

S: What led you to act when you heard back from the casting agency?
MN: When they contacted me about the post? The agency emailed me in regards to a casting for Carters. When they told me they did not submit his pictures I was very hurt and confused. I wondered how many other agencies in Georgia or the US thought the same way and so I went online and started researching.

S: Were you surprised by how quickly the story spread on social media?
MN: I was surprised that world took to Asher’s photos like they did. It makes me so proud as his Mom that they see what we see in him.

S: Have you had to interact with people who don’t understand why inclusion matters? What do you say to them?
MN: Yes! I interact with people who don’t understand why inclusion matters all the time and I am so glad I do because it gives me a chance to spread awareness and teach them exactly why it is so important. I typically talk about Asher and how he will want to be accepted around his peers in school, work, and the community he lives in just like any typical person would. We all have to accept people with disabilities because without accepting them, they aren’t able to be included.

S: What advice would you give to parents/siblings of children with special needs?
MN: I want parents/siblings that are in the same position as me to know that you can do this! Don’t let the negative put you down. There will always be negative in the world, but It’s our job as these amazing kid’s families to show the world the positive. Show them our kids can do anything they set their minds to.

S: What would you want people to know most about Asher?
MN: Down Syndrome is a part of Asher, but it doesn’t define him. We plan to continue to raise awareness and help advocate for individuals with Down Syndrome and their families. I encourage you to learn more about T21 and please feel free to contact me with any questions— And please, consider what you can do to make a more accepting and inclusive community for individuals of ALL abilities— I wouldn’t change Asher for the world but I am determined to help him change it for the better.

You can follow Asher’s journey on his Facebook page, Asher’s Down Right Perfect.

 

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The Great Bike Giveaway 2016

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Once again, Strider is proud to be a part of the Friendship Circle of Michigan’s Great Bike Giveaway! Last year, with the help of generous donors like you, the giveaway awarded 17 Strider Bikes and several other adaptive bikes to children with special needs.

This year it’s going to be even better!

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In March of 2016 the Great Bike Giveaway is hoping to give a bike to every contestant that enters!

Yes, you read that right… so now’s your chance to spread the word!
The process is simple:

1.) Go to the Great Bike Giveaway Website to enter and for complete rules about the contest.
2.) The contest starts on February 29th The Great Bike Giveaway will cap the amount of entries at 600 children— so you must act fast!
3.) Snap a photo of your child with special needs (or tell a parent of a child you know to snap a photo) and share their story.
4.) You will need to enlist the help of 10 friends to help spread the word anyway they can, through email, word of mouth, and especially social media. The Great Bike Giveaway calls these your “ambassadors”.
5.) Once your ambassadors have signed up, you’re in! Each ambassador is encouraged to raise $100 by spreading the word and encouraging others to provide online donations.

So what are you waiting for? Get your team of ambassadors ready and rally for a bike for a child with special needs!

At Strider we believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience life on two wheels!

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Good luck and Stride on!

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Views from a Newbie

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Views from a Newbie, well Kind of… My family has always been involved with people with special needs. My father was a Special Education teacher, then a consultant for the State of Minnesota for Special Ed, and ended up back in the classroom working with high school kids with special needs at the end of his career. My mom worked at a DAC – Day Activity Center which served pre-school and post school people with special needs. Later she worked in group homes for adult people with special needs. We were very active in ARC as I grew up, and I have a “Special” sister who is 45 and has been part of our family for 40 years; Amy Jo was born with Down Syndrome.

SO to the reason for writing is something I didn’t even register until I recently went to 2 Special Needs Conferences on behalf of Strider®.  I was fortunate to attend both the National Down Syndrome Congress and the National Autism Conference and heard the same story told over and over by attendees at both events. They told me “I can’t ride a bike and I am scared to try because I was hurt trying to do it before”. What I realize is that people with special needs have better and longer memories then the rest of the world, and once they have distrust it is a long and careful road that must be walked to get them to give it another try. Which comes to the best part of my story, we were able to encourage and convince many of these special people to try sitting on a Strider®, then take one or two steps so they could understand the process, a few more steps and they are gaining confidence. Then the smiles start and “Hey Mom, Hey Dad are you watching? I am riding a BIKE, I AM RIDING A BIKE!!!” I am not sure who was prouder; the rider, the parent or the Strider Team.  Traditional Bikes can’t give the access to the ground like a Strider®, training wheels don’t teach the balance that is the foundation of learning to ride on 2 wheels, and trikes are large and cumbersome to transport.  So to all the loving and well-meaning family members who want to share their love of biking, STRIDERS are the best method to teach all people of all ages and all abilities how to ride.

 

Written by: Ann Hovdenes, Service and Education Specialist, Strider Sports Int’l, Inc.

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Strider Sports International participates in the Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America

The Flame of Hope symbolizes the Special Olympics goal: shining a light on the talents and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. On May 14, 2015, the Flame of Hope was lit at a special ceremony in Greece. It was then passed to Law Enforcement Torch Runners in their role as Guardians of the Flame to ensure that the Flame of Hope stayed lit as it traveled across the Atlantic Ocean and in the first ever cross-county Unified Relay Across America until it reaches it’s final resting place at the World Games in Los Angeles.
On May 21, 2015, the Flame of Hope was split into three flames – kicking off a 46-day, cross-country relay to Los Angeles on July 25th. The Unified Relay Across America is bringing awareness to the Special Olympics movement, and creating communities where everyone is included and respected. To show our support for Special Olympics, Strider Sports International along with athletes from the Black Hills Ups of Downs Family Support Group donated and participated in what has become the Special Olympics largest grass roots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle.

With 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing 177 countries, along with 30,000 volunteers and an anticipated 500,000 spectators, the 2015 Special Olympics World Games will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015, and the single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games.

Photos from our leg in the Unified Relay, special thanks to Rapid City Police Department for keeping us safe and being our own Guardians of the Flame!

 

Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America Flickr Gallery

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World Down Syndrome Day Strider Photo Contest!

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Did you know less than half of the Down syndrome community is able to ride a bike? In Celebration of World Down Syndrome Day we’re asking you to submit photos of your favorite rider beating the odds!  The winner of our #321 contest will be announced on Saturday, March 21st and we’ll send some sweet Strider swag their way!

To enter the contest email your photo to education@striderbikes.com

Rules and Regulations:

  • By emailing the image to education@striderbikes.com you are releasing the copyright of the image for use by Strider Sports International, Inc. for promotional purposes in perpetuity.
  • Attach your photo as a jpeg no larger than 5mb and no smaller than 500kb. The photo will be uploaded to the STRIDER Flickr page
  • In order for the photo to be considered it must be a photo of the rider as the main subject, taken by you. If it is a STRIDER group shot you must have permission of all the other rider’s parents to enter.

 

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Enter to Win a STRIDER Bike in The Great Bike Giveaway!

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Wednesday, March 4th is the last day to enter The Great Bike Giveaway! In addition to the 6 bikes STRIDER donated to the campaign, 10 more bikes were funded by generous donors (like you!) to children with Special Needs, and there are more donations coming in by the minute!  There are some very deserving individuals that could use your vote!

If you haven’t checked it out or donated, you should, every dollar counts!

Check out this awesome blog post from one of last year’s winners!

 

 

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STRIDER Pump Track Field Trip!

 

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Rapid City Central High School’s adaptive physical education class took a field trip just across town to the Strider Bikes Headquarters and brought their fleet of bikes with them!

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After a quick tour through the offices and warehouse we all headed out back to practice on the SSI pump track. None of the students had ever been on a BMX style track, yet they all rode like pros!

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The smiles were astounding, and the tricks were second to none! The students have been practicing on the STRIDER Bikes for a few months. Central High School was able to obtain these bikes for their adaptive P.E. class through the 2014 Strider Gives Back contest where Strider Sports International gave away hundreds of bikes to people with special needs and the organizations to which they belong.

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Logan Keiffer, a motorcycle enthusiast who is particularly loyal to Yamaha, had received a blue bike with a custom YAMAHA number plate which featured braille lettering because Logan is blind. When our friends at Yamaha Racing got wind of Logan’s story they sent some extra goods just for him, including some racing gear, cap and hoodie. He was elated, and his classmate all cheered for him when he received the goods. We wanted to do something extra special for Logan. He is such a great student and amazing role model for people with disabilities.

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With the help of the Central High School teachers, Logan was able to enjoy the pump track with the rest of his classmates, and the faster they went, the better! (Clearly it wasn’t just the students getting their exercise out there!)
We want to send a shout out to the cobbler riders and everything they do every day to inspire us to be our best and get out there and Stride On!

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