David Austin is nine.
And he doesn’t have time to mess about with the press — he’s got a bike to decorate.
He deftly pushes the reporter off on mom while he whips his assistant — a.k.a. grandma — into shape.
“Aren’t you going to tape it on,” he asks, slightly exasperated. “No, up. Not like that. Right here. Now it’s facing the wrong way.”
David has very specific ideas about what he wants in a ride.
Understandable for a founding member of the PlayWorks Easy Riders Bike Club, which will help lead the WVU Homecoming Parade down High Street this evening on their tricked out adaptive bikes.
The nine members of the Easy Riders are all children who are unable to ride your average bike due to various diagnoses.
“We found out that he has a fatal form of muscular dystrophy, and there are a lot of other issues that come along with that,” David’s mom, Kim Burnworth, explained. “We came to PlayWorks for therapy and they asked us to sign up for a bike. It’s great because it’s hard for him to walk long distances. So this bike allows me to hold on, push him when I need to and also steer for him.”
David is one of more than 250 kids in West Virginia to receive an $1,800 custom-fitted and built adaptive bike free of charge through PlayWorks’ partnership with Variety.
PlayWorks founder Mike Lentz — Mr. Mike to those in the know — said Variety has given away more than $4.5 million in adaptive equipment in Pennsylvania and West Virginia since 2012.
Along with the bike program, Variety also sponsors a My Stroller program and a My Voice program, which provides communication devices.
“You don’t have to come to PlayWorks. It’s open to any kid who needs it,” Lentz said, explaining that a family of four can earn up to $129,800 and still qualify for a bike. “Our goal is to get this information out in the community for every eligible child who could benefit from an adaptive bike, stroller and/or communication device.”
Lentz said he’s pumped to see the Easy Riders mount up and ride for the first time this evening, with thanks to WVU for providing a prime-time venue.
“We’ve had a couple practices, so I think we’ll be pretty impressive out there. I know our guys are excited,” Lentz said. “Getting on a bike might be something that you and I take for granted, but it means everything to kids who can’t do it.”
Additional information about applying for the Variety programs can be found at varietypittsburgh.org/applynow or 724-933-0460.
For more information on PlayWorks, which provides occupation, physical and speech therapy for children and adults with special needs, visit playworkscdc.com.
David Austin is nine.