Matthew Williams was born determined, his mom, Machonne, says. Born at 28 weeks weighing just 2 pounds and with cerebral palsy spastic dysplasia, Matthew proved doctors wrong more than once, even learning to walk three years earlier than they predicted. So he knew he could be the first in his Cub Scout den to earn his bicycling badge.
But first, to ride the required 10 hours for the badge, he had to lose his training wheels.
"I can do it, mom, I can do it," Machonne recalls Matthew telling her before he climbed aboard a specially designed bike during the Lose The Training Wheels program offered through Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region. Designed by Richard Klein, a retired mechanical engineering professor from the University of Illinois, the program uses a series of bicycles fitted with special rollers and other adaptations that allow children with disabilities to gradually progress to a conventional bike. Forty children took part in the program.
On the first day, Matthew, who turns 8 this month, set his chin, got on the roller bike and took off, determined to make the volunteers helping him sweat as he whizzed around the indoor gym. His mom cried through her smiles. By the third day of the five-day program, he was riding without training wheels, sporting a grin as big as his bike helmet.
Machonne, of Schaumburg, who used to race bikes before she became a mom, knew the feeling. "For me to give him that independence is huge," she says.
"This is such a gift of freedom."