UM class research project brings joy to children with disabilities

By Rivers Brunson
University of Mobile

An assignment in a human physiology research class earned two University of Mobile students a top grade, plus the joy of helping children with disabilities who will now be able to ride bicycles for the first time.

Makayla Scott and Jordan Grissom wrote a grant requesting funds to purchase specialized tricycles for children with disabilities in the Wiregrass area in southeast Alabama. In May 2017, Wiregrass Electric Cooperative’s Operation Round Up Charitable Foundation awarded $7,800 to AMBUCS (American Business Clubs) of the Wiregrass to purchase 12 AmTrykes.

Above and beyond

At the time of the assignment, six children were on the waiting list to receive their own toy-turned-rehabilitation device. Each device is priced at $650, far out of the reach of many families of special needs children. Scott and Grissom’s grant award was enough to buy an AmTryke for each child on the waiting list, plus six more.

An AmTryke is a tricycle built to provide mobility and independence for individuals with low muscle tone or paralysis in their lower extremities or cerebral palsy. Using a safety belt, foot straps, a wide wheel base and rotating handlebars, the “trykes” allow riders to use their arms to assist in propelling their legs. Physical and occupational therapists use the trykes in their clinics to improve their patients’ coordination, balance, muscle strength and motor skills.

“We feel very blessed to have had this grant awarded, not for the sake of being recognized, but because individuals with disabilities were able to benefit from the hard work we put into writing this grant,” said Scott, of Chesterfield, South Carolina. Scott graduated in December 2016 and will pursue a doctorate of physical therapy in August.

Carolyn Corliss, dean of the School of Education, assigned her Research in Human Performance, Exercise Science and Sports class to write a grant for an organization of their choice, in hopes that they would gain the experience needed to improve communities in the future. She edited and submitted the winning grant.

“I have always known how passionate our students are, however, when I told the students to research different grants and pick one they could really get behind, I was so touched these two students selected this grant and how it could be such an impact for these children with disabilities,” Corliss said.

Unforgettable experience

Scott said she volunteered with AMBUCS before writing the grant and was able to see firsthand the benefits these trykes offer individuals with disabilities.

“I will never forget the first time I walked into an AMBUCS tryke fitting and a middle-aged woman was riding her tryke for the first time. This was the first time she had ever had the opportunity to ride a tricycle independently, and the smile on her face radiated throughout the entire room,” Scott said.

Grissom also graduated in December 2016. The Navarre, Florida, graduate is pursuing a master’s degree in public health administration.

Since its inception in 2012, AMBUCS of the Wiregrass has purchased 165 AmTrykes for individuals in the Wiregrass region with donations from organizations, businesses, and individuals.

But they do more than providing tricycles for families in need. Charter member and Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz hosts an annual Ride for Fitness and the community also hosts Bike Rodeos at churches, parks and the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds. (UM)