5th grader raises money, gives special bikes

December 24, 2009 (ST. CHARLES, Ill.) On Christmas Eve, Riley Christensen is making a holiday wish of Ava Alm come true even though the girls have never met before.

Ava, a teenager, was born with spina bifida and was recovering from her latest spinal surgery on Thursday. She was one of the recipients of a new adaptive bicycle she can ride despite her disabilities. This is the first bike she's had in almost 10 years.

"It's nice to have the hand pedals. I can't walk so I have to use my hands," said Ava Alm, gift recipient.

The inspiration for the gift came to Riley as the St. Charles fifth-grader and her mother searched online for a bike to give to her father for his 45th birthday. While searching, she saw a video about bicycles for people with disabilities.

"So often people see an opportunity and just go on with their lives. to see the determination that she saw the video and was moved and took action. there was no doubt in mind mind it was going to happen," said Lynn Christensen, Riley's mother.

Riley sprang into action despite the daunting cost - from $2,000 to $4,000 for a bike depending on the needs of its rider. And while home sick, she penned a letter -- reaching out to the dozens of people on the family's Christmas card list.

"I wrote a letter to everybody I knew and tons of people sent in checks so I got a bike," said Riley Christensen, gift giver.

She raised more than $6,000 in donations from friends, family and strangers. The 10-year-old was also able to make another special delivery to a 15-year-old girl with Cerebral Palsy.

Local bike shop owner Hal Honeyman started Project Mobility six years ago in honor of his son Jacob. For him, its a labor of love.

"Each one is matched to each child and to each of their needs based on their strengths and weaknesses," said Hal Honeyman, The Bike Rack.

Thursday afternoon, 3 ½ -year-old Rosie got an impromptu lesson from her big brother after the Geneva girl who is diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder received her special present.

"She gets something special. she really wants. she just watches us out the window," said Tommie Antonson, Rosie's brother.

"I'm speechless. thank you," said Jeff Antonson, Rosie's father.

Riley is an aspiring gymnast who loves art. She said she hasn't thought much about the gifts under her own Christmas tree, just the special gifts she's already been given today.

"They never had a bike before. It makes them happy. I'm happy," said Riley.)

Riley continues to get donations for her "adaptive" bike giveaways and is looking forward to making some more special deliveries after Christmas.

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