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Handcycle provides off-road experience for paralysis victims

August 3, 2017
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Mary Free Bed handcycle
Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital received a $10,000 Quality of Life grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which it used to purchase an Explorer III Off-Road Handcycle. Courtesy Mary Free Bed

A local rehab hospital now boasts the state’s first off-road adaptive handcycle program, courtesy of a $10,000 grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

Grand Rapids-based Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital used the $10,000 Quality of Life grant from the national paralysis advocacy nonprofit to purchase an Explorer III Off-Road Handcycle for the hospital’s Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports program. The handcycle also will be used for recreational therapy in Mary Free Bed’s inpatient and outpatient programs.

“This specialized equipment provides yet another way to help people living with paralysis to overcome obstacles,” said Maria Besta, manager of Recreational Therapy and Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports. “We’re honored to receive this award and so thankful to the Reeve Foundation for its generous gift.”

Mary Free Bed is kicking off the program with a series of twice-a-week clinics through August at Rockford’s Luton Park.

Besta said Mary Free Bed now is the only hospital to offer an off-road bike program for people with disabilities.

Recreational therapist and coordinator Mike Burkhart said the expectation is that hundreds of patients will take advantage of the bike as part of the program or in the hospital as a therapy tool.

“This bike enables people with limited or no lower-body mobility to tackle single-track terrain, something that would otherwise be impossible,” Burkhart said. “It can engage, challenge and empower people.”

Mary Free Bed was one of 102 recipients of the Quality of Life grant from the Reeve Foundation, which totaled $721,425. The grant is awarded to nonprofits nationwide that “provide more opportunities, access and daily quality of life for people living with paralysis, their families and caregivers.” Since 1999, the program has awarded more than 2,900 grants totaling more than $20 million to deserving nonprofits.

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