Carmon Wade, 13 and confined to a wheelchair for life, recently got the thrill of her young life — riding the open road with the wind in her hair, her kitty cat Django by her side, all while meeting new people in the neighborhood.
Carmon’s mother Erica Atherton and her friend Brandy Mathis of Bam’s Chop Shop in Creve Coeur, started searching for a mode of transportation that Carmon would enjoy. Friend of the family Billy Martin started looking at some of the options with Atherton as well. The main choice was an attachment to the back of a bicycle that pulled the rider behind the bike.
Many of the options required the handicapped individual to be lifted into the wagon, which is difficult in many situations, said Martin. The Van Raam Velo Plus was the final choice because has a ramp that rolls the wheelchair onto the front of the bike.
“I really wanted a bicycle for her,” said Atherton. “We’re pretty active, so I’ve wanted one for about four or five years — since I started ADA Total Access. I Googled (bikes) and they were so expensive. The one we got for Carmon was close to $10,000 with all of the extras like harnesses and it’s got to have special features. Ours, we put a motor on it because they are heavy to push and then it’s not enjoyable for the person who is helping.”
Carmon suffers from Schizencephaly, cerebral palsy, is visually impaired and is non-vocal, but the smile on her face told the story of her joy, said her mom.
Atherton and Martin decided to share Carmon’s joy with the students at Schramm Educational Center. Handicapped individuals from 21 districts from Tazewell and Mason counties attend the center. There, they gave each child a ride.
Atherton said that, for those who are handicapped, even the simplest things can be more difficult.
“They depend on other people, even for their joy,” said Atherton. It’s for that reason that she loves taking Carmon on rides.
“She gets her cat and we make him ride with us. She just loves it. Everyone knows her in the neighborhood now,” she said.
Martin said, “As a kid I really enjoyed riding bicycles. I love motorcycles now too. I love the wind in my face and these kids do too. Just to see their face when they’re going out there and they’re out front instead on a trailer behind. They can actually feel it and see everything. It’s nice for the rider because they can see over. It’s safe. The design is fantastic.”
Business owners and private citizens raised approximately $10,000 to purchase Carmon’s Velo Plus bicycle.
It is manufactured in Switzerland and there are only five in the United States.
Now Atherton, Mathis and Martin want to make a Velo Plus bike a permanent part of the day for Schramm students.
The group is asking local businesses, churches, organizations and individuals to donate so that one of the Velo Plus bicycles may be bought for the school. The bike for Schramm will cost $8,634. The group has raised $350 at this point.
Those wishing to donate can go to www.gofundme.com/29tmsyc, or drop off or mail donations to Martin at Bill Martin Insurance Agency from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1123 Market St., Pekin, IL 61554; Brandy Mathis at Bam’s Chop Shop from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 705 S. Main St., Creve Coeur, IL 61610; or Erica Atherton from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 125 Thunderbird Lane, Suite 5, East Peoria, IL 61611.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter/sharrispekin