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    Posted April 9, 2014 by
    Tarrant, Alabama
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Tell us the Good Stuff!

    A Really Great Bike Giveaway


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Eula Todd remembers the sense of accomplishment she felt as a child when she first learned to ride a bike, and she wanted her daughter Sydney, an active 5-year-old with Down syndrome, to have that same experience. "She had a tricycle that was given to us by a neighbor, but due to her diagnosis, she was never really able to maneuver a 'regular' bicycle," she said. "The most she could do was sit and have us push her."

    Todd entered Sydney into the Michaela Noam Kaplan Great Bike Giveaway, a campaign run through the non-profit organization Friendship Circle of Michigan, which looks to provide adaptive bicycles to children with special needs. An adaptive bicylce is equipped with features like a back to the seat and an arm rest, suspension straps on the pedals and a lap belt, so that Sydney could ride it without her parents' help.

    When Sydney's father, a police officer in the Tarrant Police Department in Alabama, asked the other officers he worked with if they would vote for Sydney so she could win the bicycle, they decided to buy one for her instead.

    "As they wheeled the bike out and it came into her view, she placed her hands on her face and said,'Wow!'" Todd said. "She immediately got down and climbed aboard."
    - Verybecoming, CNN iReport producer

    On August 13, 2008, Sydney Maria Lynn Todd made her entrance into this world. I gave her a kiss and she was immediately whisked away from the delivery room for further examination as it was suspected that she might have Down syndrome. One week later at her first doctor’s appointment, the diagnosis was confirmed. Her father and I were heartbroken and I was afraid because I did not think that I could care for a child with Down syndrome. I have never been more wrong. After a few weeks of crying and mourning the loss of the life that we had dreamed for our child, we began to dream new dreams for our daughter and got busy with making those dreams a reality.


    We contacted Alabama’s Department of Rehabilitation Services to begin early intervention services. From birth, her pediatrician (who was wonderfully supportive) stressed the importance of early intervention. Through the state’s program, Sydney was assigned a Speech, Physical, and Occupational therapist. From the age of three months to three years, they each visited our home once a month to work with her and teach us techniques as well. But, we wanted to do more. So, we also enrolled her in The Bell Center for Early Intervention Programs. The Bell Center of Birmingham, AL is an awesome place that is “dedicated to maximizing the potential of children from birth to three years of age who are at risk for developmental delays.” At the Bell Center, Sydney was also assigned a Speech, Physical, and Occupational therapist and a Special Education Teacher.


    Today, Sydney is a very active 5-year-old kindergarten student who: reads at, or above the level of some “typical” children her age; knows her ABC’s; can count to 20; and enjoys being a cheerleader. However, do to her diagnosis some of the simple pleasures of life, such as riding a bicycle, are a little more difficult for her than they are for the "typical" child. Remembering the joy and sense of accomplishment that we felt as children learning to ride a bicycle and wanting the same for our daughter, we set out on a mission to win an adaptive bicycle for Sydney.


    Each year during the month of March, the Friendship Circle (a non-profit organization that provides programs and support for families of individuals with special needs) sponsors the Michaela Noam Kaplan Great Bike Giveaway. Through this campaign, families of individuals with special needs are given the opportunity to win an adaptive bicycle through a voting process and a random drawing. In March of this year, we entered Sydney in the contest and began contacting family, friends, and co-workers to solicit their votes.


    The response was overwhelming. My co-workers and friends inquired about making donations towards the purchase of a bicycle for Sydney. But before that could gain any traction, her dad, who is a police officer with the Tarrant Police Department in Tarrant, AL, sent a text message to his co-workers explaining our mission and asking them to vote for his “Sugar” and they immediately responded by saying that they wanted to purchase a bicycle for her. I asked if they were aware that the bicycle costs around $1200, and the response was, “yes, they still want to purchase it for her.” With that, Chief Dennis Reno, Sergeant Larry Rice, Sergeant Phillip George, Ms. Desiree Fitts and the many wonderful officers and fire fighters of the Tarrant Police and Fire Department began a process to secure a bicycle for our angel.  Mr. Lamar Hatcher, owner of Hatcher Wrecker Service, heard of the department's efforts and also joined in.


    Sergeant Rice and Ms. Fitts put me in touch with another local organization, The Exceptional Foundation, to secure all of the information needed to have an AMBUCS Foot Cycle built for Sydney and purchased from AMBUC'S Birmingham Chapter - a non-profit organization.   Initially we requested a pink bicycle but later learned that AMBUCS bicycles are built in their signature color - red. However, the Tarrant Police Department was dedicated to making sure that “Sydney had what Sydney wanted” – a pink bike. Enter Classic Car Motoring.


    Classic Car Motoring is an award winning Collision Repair center that concentrates on Mercedes and other high-end autos, and is the only Certified Collision Facility approved by MBUSA in Alabama. Upon hearing that the department was not going to be able to purchase a pink bike, Mr. Jeff Baggett, owner of Classic Car Motring eagerly jumped on board to help in deliver the perfect pink bicycle. The guys at Classic Car mixed and created a “special” pink just for Sydney. They also purchased a helmet for her, painted it to match her bicycle, and personalized the bike by painting “Sugar” on the frame just above the right pedal.


    Do you remember the day you learned to ride a bike? Do you remember the overwhelming sense of joy and freedom you felt, the confidence you gained, and the pride that you had? Through the efforts and generosity of the Tarrant Police Department and Classic Car Motoring, Sydney Maria Lynn Todd now experiences those same feelings. When seeing the bicycle for the first time her response was, “Wow!” As her father and I think about the kindness extended to us, our expression is also, “Wow!”

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