Three-year-old Novah Rutherford was nothing but smiles when she was presented with a specially designed bike created just for her. When members of the Marseilles Masonic Lodge #417 uncovered the small bike to a surprised Novah Saturday, she was helped onto the bike and seemed to never want to get off.
Novah, born prematurely, is living with developmental delay, severe sleep apnea disorder and V.S.D. (Ventricular Septal Defect) Closure – a hole in the wall separating the two lower chambers of the heart. Novah's mother, December, said the gift started with Marseilles Elementary School's special needs physical therapist, Sarah Lamb.
“My mother-in-law, Lynn, is a substitute teacher at the school and she noticed the bikes there were too big for Novah to ride. She asked Sarah about what could be done, then texted me about the possibility of having a specially built bike for Novah. I said let's pursue this and today, here we are. Novah's just so happy.”
Novah and her family weren't the only happy people there to watch the bike's presentation. About 30 people attended the event and everyone was smiling.
“This is such a wonderful way to help a disabled child,” Marseilles Mayor Jim Hollenbeck said. “It's a wonderful day when you can see a child smile when the bike is unveiled. Most are surprised and we're very fortunate that the Masonic Lodge helps like this. They do a lot for our community and we're all grateful.”
Masonic Lodge bike history
Since 2012, the Lodge has given away one-of-a-kind bikes to 28 disabled children and young adults.
“We are privileged and happy to aid and assist so many children and young adults over the last six years,” Worshipful Master Donald Slover told a crowd of about 30 people. “So many parents have placed their trust in us to provide a safe piece of equipment for their child's development with both safety and therapy in mind.
”So today, our Lodge's program crosses another milestone; 28 bikes given in six years,” Slover continued. “We couldn't do this without our supporters. Two of the bikes were donated by two of our members. In May 2018 we gave our 26th bike away in memory of Worshipful Brother Jack Seaborn. In October of the same year, we gave our 27th bike away in memory of Donald Slover, Jr. (his son who passed away with cancer). And now, we give away our 28th bike courtesy of Right Worshipful Brother Scott Caselli and his insurance company.”
Where do the bikes come from?
Before it was AMBUCS, a nonprofit charitable organization, it was American Business Clubs, an organization dedicated to help people with disabilities. In 1961, the name was changed and by the mid-1990s, the organization began making and giving away therapeutic tricycles as a national project. Today, there are more than 5,000 members in more than 150 chapters in over 30 states. Their mission is to inspire mobility and independence; they fund-raise for and give away about 3,500 Amtrykes every year.
“These bikes are all custom-made,” Masonic Member Charles Wood, Jr. said. “We gave away a bike to a child that couldn't move his head. AMBUCS designed a part specifically designed to hold his head in place. That's how specialized these bikes are because each child has their own special needs. All bikes come with helmets and flags. Most all have a big handle in back, a steering handle so parents can steer their child. The important thing is that the child doesn't even realize they're being pushed. Everything is thought of. That's why it's so important for us to work with therapists who work with and know those needs so well.”
What happens when the bikes are outgrown?
Wood said “they are recycled. We do get them back once the child has used the bike for as long as possible. Novah's bike is specifically designed to grow with her up to a certain point. Then we get them back and donate them back to schools or a therapist who may have a child who could use the same bike.”
When it was time to leave, Novah was found outside the lodge, riding up and down the sidewalk, her mother steering her from behind.
“She's so happy and we're so grateful to the Masonic Lodge for their help," Novah's mother said. “What's so wonderful about this gift is that Novah can now ride a bike like other kids."