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 Moxie
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
I’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 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.
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.