Equipment is an enormous part of the lives of special needs children and their families. Used for anything from mobility and therapy, to feeding and bathing, our daily lives revolve around equipment, and no one piece is exactly the same. Every child is different, as is the preference of every single parent or caregiver.
When we started our equipment journey in the spring of 2013, I had no idea what was out there. Wheel chairs, gait trainers, bath seats… the list goes on. Not only are there so many different pieces of equipment, most need to be replaced after as little as two years due to a child growing or needing different options. Because of my daughter Jillian’s every day needs, a bike never crossed my mind.
Back in September, my husband came across an article about a child who received a bike from Freedom Concepts, Inc. He decided to email the contact that he found, James Wall, who graciously offered to bring a DCP12 tricycle to our home on September 22nd, for our daughter to try out. I was skeptical that she would like the bike. In fact, I was sure that putting her on it would be nothing but a screaming fest.
James arrived and we got ready to test out this new piece of equipment. As we were putting Jillian on the bike, she had this enormous smile on her face. When we got her all ready to go she just took off, like she had been riding for her entire life. There wasn’t a single ounce of fight like there is with other equipment. Every single moment in the hour that James spent in our home was sheer joy for Jillian. I remember the look on her face, and the disappointment in her sweet little voice that followed for days afterwards as she asked, “I go round and round?”, and “I bike?” It took so much of me to not break down. I was heartbroken that we couldn’t fund this on our own, but I was determined to find a way.
We knew that our insurance wouldn’t cover this bike, as they deemed it a “recreational item”. However, the amazing people at Freedom Concepts knew of a foundation local to us that have covered these bikes in the past. The only catch was that the deadline for their application was in less than ten days, on October 1st. The Bloomfield Foundation had a short application, but it required letters of medical diagnosis and medical necessity along with a denial letter from insurance. In my experience, it takes longer than ten days just to talk to a real person unless it’s an emergency. I had to at least try.
I started the process on September 24th, and October 1st was the following Thursday. I had no time to spare at this point. After numerous phone calls and a few emails to the right people, I had the ball rolling in the right direction. Jillian’s PT had a letter written up in less than 24 hours, and we started the process to get the denial from our insurance. I wrote a letter about Jillian, explaining that we had no other sources of funding, and how much this bike would mean to our family. I contacted outside agencies (as requested in Bloomfield’s application) asking if they would help with funding, but we were turned down.
On Monday, September 28th, I sent Jillian’s application the fastest way the post office would send it. I crossed my fingers and I cried when I handed that envelope to the postman (I probably looked like a fool). I prayed that it would make it into the hands of the right person; someone who would read the letter I wrote, and see a little girl who just wanted to be included and have some freedom that she could control. I wanted Jillian to have something she could truly enjoy doing without making it feel like work, and I wanted to see her ride her bike with her twin brother.
After weeks of waiting, and many emails to this incredible woman named Shawna, who works behind the scenes, I got the email we were waiting for. I will never forget the moment I opened my email and read those words, “James just got the email approval from Bloomfield for Jillian’s bike!!” I burst into tears and started jumping up and down! I had lost hope since it had been over 6 weeks, and I was prepared to resubmit another application in January. So, to say I was shocked was an understatement!
Many parents and caregivers are doubtful, just like I was. I was sure that we would have to raise the money ourselves, because there is no place out there that would pay for a bike for my daughter but, there is, and they did! So many special needs children can benefit from a Freedom Concepts bike, and there are so many organizations out there that are willing to help. You just have to be willing to take a little bit of time to contact them. There are people out there who will help you through the process, and after my experience with Freedom Concepts, and the gracious foundation who funded my daughter’s bike I want to help other families make this a reality for their incredible kiddos!
Thank you Freedom Concepts and thank you Bloomfield Foundation. You made our dream come true!