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Community members donate custom hand cycle to 8-year-old

Mar. 01, 2013 @ 12:30 PM

RED HOUSE, W.Va. — There is something special about a first bicycle — a little like the feeling one gets later with his or her first car — a feeling of independence and pride in being able to drive or ride it.

Usually, it is just a matter of going to the store, picking out the bike, and bringing it home. For a Putnam County boy, however, getting his own special bike was, until recently, just a dream.

On Saturday, Feb. 23, Daniel Priddy, 8, of Red House entered the Charleston Bike Center in Kanawha City with his family, ostensibly to look for a bike for his mother. As his dad pushed his wheelchair through the door, Daniel’s face went from curiosity to surprise to a big smile when he realized the gleaming, royal blue, three-wheeled hand bike was his.   

“Is this for me?” he later said was his first thought. With his wheelchair pushed up close to the bike, Daniel maneuvered his body onto the black padded seat, placed his fingers on the hand pedals and smiled again as everyone in the room beamed. “Cool,” he said, which brought a lot of laughter.

After the bike was taken outside, Daniel sat down once again and after having his seat belt buckled, he immediately began hand-pedaling the bike down the sidewalk. Despite cracks and uneven places on the walkway, riding it was no problem for him, although shop owner Bill Nottingham and Pastor Wayne Hooper were following along until he got used to it. Riding became a little harder as he tried to turn the bike around in the grass, but soon he was back on track.

Arriving once again at the front of the bike shop, he was then presented with a new bike helmet and a WVU cyclist jersey, compliments of Nottingham who had ordered the bike at the request of Hooper and Richard Eichberger, which he sold to them at cost.  

Having a bicycle to ride had been the dream of Daniel for some time; however, the kind he would need was beyond the means of his parents — as it would be for a lot of people. The bike, with a retail price of about $2,200, was built by Top End, a subsidiary of Inva-Care, a medical equipment manufacturer, and was custom made to fit Daniel’s measurements.

The whole story began after Pastor Hooper, of Scott Depot, heard about Daniel’s dream from a member of his congregation. Daniel was born with tibial aplasia ectrodactyly, a rare genetic disorder which, in Daniel’s case, meant he was born without tibias — or the long bones in his legs. He was also missing ankles and knee joints, and his hands are partially formed.

Although his parents, Dale and Janie, learned about the disorder through several ultrasounds during Janie Priddy’s pregnancy, they didn’t know exactly what to expect.

“We didn’t really know until he was born,” she said. Later, they found that several members of their family have had the disorder, but in different forms such as missing fingers. Daniel, on the other hand, has a more severe case.

“It was very sporadic and could skip several generations,” Janie said of the disorder.

Otherwise, Daniel Priddy was quite healthy. As he grew, he began to do the same thing all babies do, such as holding his own bottle or putting his pacifier in his mouth. At the end of 2005, after hearing the opinion of three doctors, the decision was made to amputate his legs — otherwise, he would have had to remain in a wheelchair.

He was fitted with straight prostheses that he could walk on, but then was fitted with a type of prostheses with knees. However, when walking, the wearer has to listen for the knee to go into place before taking the next step which slowed him down. Although he worked with a therapist, he still moved slower than when he got around without anything. He preferred speed to using the prostheses. His parents have decided for now to allow him to go without the artificial legs and let him try the legs again later.

Daniel, who is a third-grade student at Winfield Elementary, loves to try new things, and challenges definitely do not scare him. He swims, bowls, skateboards, and even wrestles on the Poca Youth Wrestling team. His mother said he has won eight or nine trophies in wrestling the last couple of years.

“We raised him to be independent and self-sufficient. We don’t like the word ‘can’t.’ He doesn’t let anything stand in his way,” Mom Janie said.   

When he first wanted to swim, he was a little frightened, but after viewing a teenager on YouTube named Nick Santo with the same birth disorder who demonstrates how he swims, that was all he needed.

“He got inspired by him and he wasn’t afraid of the water,” Janie said.

 Last year, he had his birthday party at the South Charleston Recreation Center. His birthday, which arrives in a few days, will also be a swimming party at the same center.  

Bike riding was different, however. Where before, he could always find a way to do what he wanted, bike riding presented a different challenge. He would have to pump with his hands, not his feet. After looking online, they found a bike that he could get around on. It had two back tires and one front tire. The rider turns the hand crank the same way a regular bike rider pumps the pedals with his legs and feet.

The hard part was paying for it. This is where Pastor Hooper stepped in.

Although he did not know Daniel, when he found out Daniel wanted a bike, not to just ride around where he lives, but to take camping so he could ride with the other kids on the campgrounds, the idea stuck with him.

“I prayed about it,” he said. “This needed to happen,” he kept thinking. Still, he had to be realistic. Despite the congregations being generous with their money, the two churches he pastors — Wade Chapel at Red House Hill and Emma Chapel, near the Jackson County line — are small. When he went to Emma Chapel that morning, he told the congregation about Daniel and how he wanted to help him get his custom-made bike.

“I asked them to pray about it,” he said. Before he left the church, he was handed a little over $1,000 in cash and checks.

“It’s not a big church, we normally have 45-50 people. When I left, I was amazed,” he said. When he went to Wade Chapel, he took time for testimonies about how God had worked in different ones’ lives. Hooper then said he wanted to share with them what he had experienced at Emma Chapel. They too wanted to help Daniel’s dream come true, and gave a large donation.

 At their weekly prayer breakfast, Hooper saw Richard Eichberger, who is a cyclist. He asked Eichberger if he could take on the project of ordering a bike.

“He helped me find the right bike,” Hooper said.

Hooper said the guys at the prayer breakfast gave money, and Hooper’s own son, sent a donation.

Richard Eichberger, too, raised money for the bike. He set up a Facebook page that raised money for the bicycle, raised $160 at a pre-holiday run, held a silent auction that added $100, and received money from various donors through word of mouth and third-party information. He raised $925.

Bill Nottingham of Charleston Bike Center has been instrumental in getting the bike for Daniel.

“I got the chair for them at my cost and we assembled it for him, and gave him a bike jersey to go with it,” he said. He also gave him a new helmet and agreed to provide repairs and maintenance for the life of the bike. The remaining money left after everything was paid was given to the family.

“I am happy to participate in something like that,” Nottingham said. “Daniel should be an inspiration to all of us to use what we have to the best of our abilities.”

Eichberger said he felt a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment after presenting the bike to Daniel; especially after seeing his face when he was presented with the bike.

“Once I saw that smile on his face — he has such a sweet demeanor about him,” Eichberger said. Hooper agreed.   

“We were blessed by God to make this possible for him,” Hooper said. “When God gets in the midst of this, all things are possible. He cares as much about the dream of little kids as much as grownups like you and I. The impossible becomes possible,” he said. “At the end of the day, it was God.”

Daniel is enjoying his bike every chance he gets. Usually he is excited to wrestle, but Saturday he really wanted to try his new bicycle. His parents took him to Eleanor to ride the bike on a parking lot and on the nice sidewalks in the town. Later, he wanted to get away from the wrestling match early so he could ride again. His mother said he was heard earlier asking, “Is it really mine? Can I really keep it?”

The Priddys are grateful for the outpouring of love from so many people.  

 “I appreciate everything they did for him — none of them knew him personally. It was an amazing thing they did for him.” She hopes that Daniel will be able to do the same for someone else in the future.

“Someday maybe Daniel can pay it forward — to help or encourage someone else,” she said.