Neighbors rally for 10-year-old Zach's special needs bike

3:11 PM, Sep 7, 2010   |    comments
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JORDAN, Minn. -- Drive into Jordan's Bridle Creek neighborhood and the swarm that greets you won't necessarily be made up of mosquitoes. 

"I think it started with a few of us going working out and lost some pounds," recalls Jen Roberts about the origin of the neighborhood bike rides that attract dozens of parents and children.

"When we started biking, more of the kids wanted to come too.  Now you see bike trailers attached to the back and the babies are coming too."

The perfect community activity, unless you are ten years old and in Zach West's predicament, confined to a wheel chair with barely enough strength left to hold up his head. 

Zach has a rare disease called infantile Neuronal Axonal Dystrophy, which his mother  Rachele Chrismer describes as a cross between Lou Gehrig's disease and Alzheimer's.

Zach seemed perfectly normal at birth.  But about the age of two he began having trouble walking, and except for his infectious smile, Zach has been steadily regressing in both mind and body ever since. 

Zach's mom has done all she could to make sure he is included in neighborhood activities, including purchasing a special needs three-wheel bicycle for his fifth birthday, when he was still able use his legs to push the pedals.

"I just want him to do what other kids do," said Chrismer.  But with his strength failing, on bike nights Zach found himself grounded. 

That is, until till his neighbors got to thinking.

"Actually I just Googled, I Googled special needs bike trailer," recalled Roberts.

That one internet search by a neighbor and Zach was on the way to having his ticket to ride.

The neighborhood moms who took up Zach's cause figured it might take all summer to raise $1000 for the bike trailer.  Turns out, they overestimated a bit.  "From the time we made the flyer and emailed the neighborhood, it was two weeks until we had the money," said Roberts.

On bike night Zach now rides in the trailer next to his 18-month-old sister Sydney, as his mother pedals the attached bike and somehow manages to keep up with the neighbors.  "He knows what's going on, he loves it," said Chrismer about the energy she draws from Zach's wide smile.

At times Zach's mom finds it difficult to even express her gratitude. "There isn't words," said Chrismer, pausing to collect her emotions.  "People don't get to know how good people are and we get to see it ever day because of Zach."

Chrismer knows that at ten, Zach has reached the usual life expectancy for kids with his condition.  But on bike nights she loves to pretend everything is normal.   "Zach don't push your sister out, don't do it," she counsels her son from her bike seat, knowing full well Zach hasn't the ability to move himself from the trailer, much less his sister.

Normal, is a state of being Chrismer's neighbors wish for her too.  "I think the greater reward is for all of us because it felt so good to be able to do something," said Roberts.

It takes a village to raise a child, the old saying goes. But every so often it takes a child to bring out the best in a neighborhood.

(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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