Do you remember your first bicycle? At any age, that feeling of empowerment, freedom, and fun all mingled together when feet pedal a bike into motion can be truly magical. What does it mean for a child who is a wheelchair user and can’t ride a bicycle, though? Fortunately for Alexi Martinez, a boy in the Tampa Bay area who is living with spina bifida, he no longer has to miss out.
On Friday, June 1, Alexi got to experience that magic for the very first time. All of the other children in the Martinez family had won bicycles at a festival earlier in spring, except for Alexi, who did not receive a bicycle because he cannot ride a traditional foot-powered bike. Sergeant Colin McCoy, a bicycle squad officer with the Tampa Police department, was at the festival and witnessed the disappointment Alexi felt when he was left out and set in motion a plan to change that.
When Sergeant McCoy shared Alexi’s story with the fellow officers in his unit, Corporal Sean Kruger said, “we need to do something about this.” Without hesitation everyone agreed. Officers donated their own personal funds and community members also readily contributed to Alexi’s cause. With the money raised, the police department was able to purchase for Alexi a handcycle, a specially-designed adaptive tricycle that is pedaled by arm power. The department partnered with Sun Seeker, a bicycle manufacturer in Miami that specializes in adaptive bicycles for individuals who live with disabilities, to build the custom handcycle. Officers and volunteers surprised Alexi by presenting him with his new bike in front of the Tampa Police Department; the group even set up a course on the street so he could experience his very own bike rodeo, just as his siblings had when they received their bicycles.
“I work with incredible police officers and representatives for this department and law enforcement as a whole,” shared Sergeant McCoy. “Nearly everyone signs up to do this because they want to help people. Well that’s exactly what happened here. We helped a child who would otherwise not have been able to have access to a bicycle. It was amazing to see it all happen. I am humbled and blessed to be a part of this unit.”
As for Alexi, perhaps this special act of kindness brings an extra dose of magic into this eleven-year-old boy’s life.