01 Jan Angie’s new bike
And so normally I would never get involved with a charity I had written about in a newspaper, but, what the hell. The minute I looked at a teary-eyed mom from my own teary eyes, I knew I had found a kindred spirit. We both have daughters with disabilities that prevents them from riding a bike because of motor and balance issues.
For years I watched as we tried and failed over and over to help my daughter Meredith learn, but we all just became frustrated and gave up. Instead Meredith would move her scooter down the sidewalk dragging it between her feet while the neighborhood kids whizzed by. It broke my heart.
Enter AMBUCS, http://capitalcityambucs.org a charity that builds individualized bikes for kids with special needs. The first time I saw Meredith pedal, I bought one. Just like that. I’m so fortunate to be able to do this, but it bothered me that most families were on a waiting list because they couldn’t afford to purchase one.
And then came my ethical dilemma. I had done a story on Meredith’s new bike just naming the company in passing. You know seriously, was that going to stop me from helping a family? I hope not. I received the money for the bicycle from a speech I made where I volunteered to give the pay to a better cause than me.
The bike I bought was one of about 18 that were sitting out as I entered the gym at the Dell Children’s Pediatric Therapy Program. The scene took my breath away. Like a room full of Santa Clauses, therapists were stationed at every bike to help the child get on and maybe even pedal. This was Christmas x 20, but I wasn’t ready for what was to follow, not really.
“They want to meet the donor ,” Margaret Garwood, one of the physical therapists at the center and a liaison for the bike company, said to me.
I figured I’d be asked to do this, but a new panic sort of washed over me. What would I say? How awkward was this.
I could see the Mom just a few feet away from me leaning over the bike and smiling with her daughter. She was just about Meredith’s age which, of course, gave me a huge lump in my throat.
It was too late to pull out.
I tapped her on the shoulder just as Margaret introduced us. “This was something I really wanted to do,” I told her the mom.
Don’t choke up, I thought. I wondered if the mother had the same sad experiences I had with a bicycle. “Is this your daughter?” I continued.
“Yes, this is Angie,” she said. Angie looked at me and beamed. “We never could have done this,” the mom added giving me a light hug.
“I’m so happy I could make it happen,” I told her.
“I’m Sherry,” she said.
Our eyes locked for a couple of seconds and we embraced, but we didn’t cry. It was a stunningly powerful moment, both standing there watching her daughter put her feet in the pedal stirrups, just like Meredith.
“My daughter has one too,” I said. “I just wanted another kid to have one,” I said, my voice trailing off.
I would learn in the next 60 seconds that tragedy and stoicism defined this mom. She had a car accident and her daughter Angie received some permanent neurological damage involving motor control. Her husband was killed. “I was driving,” she said somberly.
I’ve learned over the years that mothers in my tribe don’t really care how you got to the same place, just that you are there with support. I’ve met hundreds of moms in waiting rooms across Austin and stories of pain, irreverant humor and sharing information is what we do.
My career as an objective reporter has long since morphed into advocacy journalism and I’m cool with that. There’s a real freedom to joining a cause, writing about assholes with subjective glee and giving bikes to girls like Angie.
Two daughters can now ride like the wind. Two mothers can now sit and watch.