Ben Paré’s million-dollar smile said it all Saturday afternoon after the 15-year-old Sudburian received the gift of an adaptive tricycle from the Sunshine Foundation of Canada.
The teen said he was “a lot happy” after being presented with the bike in front of family and friends, and thanked the Sunshine Foundation.
His mom, Melissa Paré, explains that cycling is one of Ben’s favourite things to do. Through fundraisers, she’d previously bought two child-sized adaptive tricycles for Ben, who has spastic cerebral palsy, but he’s outgrown them both.
His new, adult-sized ride - which has a weight capacity of 300 pounds, and will grow with him, if need be - is “like a Cadillac,” she said.
Melissa said that with Ben’s condition, which requires him to use a wheelchair, there’s “not a lot he can do,” but cycling is one activity where he’s “free as a bird.” It’s also an important activity for him to build his leg muscles.
“We can go for hours on end as far as he wants to go,” she added.
She said got the idea to apply to the Sunshine Foundation through the respite services she uses for Ben’s care.
“I’d heard of foundations, but I didn’t think we would qualify,” Melissa said.
Local Sunshine Foundation representative Amanda Zurkowski explains the foundation grants the dreams of youth between the ages of 11 and 21 who are living with severe physical disabilities.
“These dreams have a large impact on these children,” she said.
“As a mom of four kids, I'm wiping my mascara away consistently, just to be able to see the joy that something as simple as a bike is going to bring in for Ben and his family and be able to go out and ride his bike with his friends. That is just monumental for him.”
The adaptive tricycle was purchased through Motion Sudbury, which sells mobility and accessibility products.
On hand to deliver the device was Cory Gladman, a mobility and accessibility consultant with the company.
He said the tricycle, which is made by an American company called Rifton, is worth about $6,500. Ben is the first person in Sudbury to receive the device’s latest model.
“They make really durable products,” Gladman said. “It’ll last him a good, long time.”
He said he’s been working with the Paré family on Ben’s assistive devices for the past five years or so, including both his wheelchair and previous tricycles.
“We work in the medical profession where it's not always happy, but some things like this really change how you feel about your job and makes you feel good about it,” Gladman said. “I’m just glad I got the chance to make it here today.”
Heidi Ulrichsen is Sudbury.com’s associate content editor.