EVERETT — All 11-year-old Quinn Schmitz could do was watch in frustration as kids zoomed down the street on their bikes, leaving her behind.
“All the neighborhood kids ride bikes and she’s just left running after them,” said her mom, Sarah Blakeley.
Now, those kids might want to look over their shoulders to see who’s gaining on them.
Balance and strength problems resulting from a rare intestinal disorder had kept Quinn from riding a bicycle. All that changed when a bright blue Sun tricycle was wheeled up to her Thursday evening at ATI Physical Therapy in Everett.
“Yeah!” she exclaimed, grinning as she first glimpsed the shiny new three-wheeler painted in her favorite color.
The tricycle was presented to Quinn by Preston’s March for Energy, a nonprofit based in Wilmington, Delaware, and ATI Foundation, based near Chicago. ATI Foundation has paid for 40 of the 179 adaptive bikes that Preston’s March for Energy has presented nationally to children with disabilities.
With a room full of adults looking on, Quinn initially was hesitant to sit on the tricycle and test out her new wheels. But within a few minutes, her expression turned to delight as she confidently began riding the tricycle around the confines of a room outfitted with physical therapy equipment.
“It’s really hard not to cry,” her mom said. “It makes me so happy. I imagine she’s going to ride it every time she goes outside.”
Quinn has battled medical issues since she was an infant. “She’s been a sick kid,” Blakeley said. Rarely a year went by without being hospitalized.
At first, there were the nutritional problems caused by the disease, chronic intestinal pseudo obstruction, which robbed her of energy.
At age 8, she was diagnosed with a severe lung infection. Doctors told her mom she had a 5 percent chance of surviving.
Before a surgical procedure on her intestines in 2014, the disease was depleting her energy. It caused her to be malnourished, to need supplemental oxygen and to use a wheelchair, her mom said.
“Now she’s just blossoming,” Blakeley said. It’s now been 15 months without a trip to the hospital.
Blakeley first heard about Preston’s March for Energy a couple years ago from another mom. The group was interested in giving a bike to Quinn, but her mom said her daughter wouldn’t have been strong enough to use it. Other kids needed help. So Quinn remained on the waiting list for two years.
Three-wheeled bikes can help kids with physical challenges, said Deb Buenage, co-founder of Preston’s March for Energy.
“They get on that bike and they don’t need any help steering,” she said. “Something we take for granted — how to ride a bike — creates independence, freedom, something we all know very well they may have never known.”
Less than hour after she first saw her tricycle, Quinn was peddling it around a nearby parking lot. The Madison Elementary School fifth-grader learned she could safely steer the tricycle into turns.
Quinn said she can’t wait to ride in her neighborhood cul-de-sac. Eventually, she hopes to ride to school.
“Look at her now,” her mom said. “We can’t get her off the bike.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on Preston’s March for Energy, a nonprofit that provides adapted bikes for children with disabilities, is available at the website: prestonsmarch.org.