This summer, Kaeden Dennie, 10, can hop on his bike and ride to the park in his New Sudbury neighbourhood and play with his friends any time he wants.
That may not sound like much, but for Kaeden, who has cerebral palsy, it's a milestone moment in his young life.
“I'll be able to ride with my sister, finally,” he said Friday afternoon, moments after he received the surprise gift, thanks to the generosity of the Knights of Columbus Council #7368.
Kaeden's dad, Kevin, has the good luck to work with Denis Barbeau, a member of the Knights, at Vale. Just three weeks ago, Kevin told him about the bike, a specially designed piece of equipment worth $2,000.
Because cerebral palsy limits his lower body strength, Kaeden has trouble pedaling regular bicycles. And while he gets around in his walker, it was too tiring for him to go any distance before he was exhausted.
So they needed the bike, which has a lower centre of gravity, and is adjustable as Kaeden grows up. It's designed so it will last him most of his life – but the problem was raising enough money to buy it.
“When it comes to accessible equipment, it's always very expensive,” Kevin said. “His wheelchair is $10,000.”
When he mentioned it at work, Barbeau said he knew right away it was something he could help with. But even he was surprised it all came together in three weeks.
“It's the reason I joined the Knights – they're very, very charitable,” he said. “We've been able to do many things like this.”
When he went to the Dennie home Friday afternoon for the big delivery, nobody was expecting it.
“I thought I was going to have to wait a long time because it was (such) a big bike,” Kaeden said.
“I knew Denis was working on it, but I thought he was coming over here for paperwork or something,” Kevin agreed. “It can take up to a year sometimes. It's awesome.”
And so a thrilled Kaeden hopped on and took his first bike ride up his street, only needing a little help to pedal across his front lawn.
“Now he can go to the park to play with his friends, like any other kid,” Kevin said. “He already said hi to a couple of his friends on the street … We'll be able to go the park around the corner now. Otherwise, he'd be inside playing video games.”
And with the bike's design, it can be adjusted to fit him well into adulthood.
“He'll grow into the bike, better and better,” Kevin said. “The physiotherapist said it was a great fit for him.”
Barbeau said he wanted to be there when Kaeden saw the bike, and went for his first ride.
“The look on his face when he came outside – that'll tell you everything.”