Special bike offers Chicago-area boy new mobility

January 7, 2011 7:49:15 PM PST
A 12-year-old with cerebral palsy says his dream has come true. That's because after intense therapy to learn how to walk and then ride a bike, he's been given a very special gift.

Friday was the day Keshawn Johnson's world changed for the better as he finally got his very own bike.

"I'm so excited, I could jump for joy right now," Keshawn told ABC7 Chicago.

The gift is one that Keshawn calls a milestone in his young life. The Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital where Keshawn gets his physical therapy, along with his doctor and others, all worked to make this special dream come true.

"This is really important to me. This has been my lifelong dream, too," said Keshawn.

That's because the extraordinary 12-year-old only learned to walk on his own a few years ago, then to ride a bicycle after hours of intense physical therapy.

"This bike gives him the opportunity to be a typical kid, a typical 12-year-old," said Susie Donohue, Keshawn's physical therapist.

Keshawn's doctor, psychiatrist Lisa Thorton, also used certain medications to manage Keshawn's coordination and mobility issues.

"We do use Botox, the exact same medicine people use on wrinkles. Actually, it was developed for medical purposes which is Keshawn's issue and we use bracing. We use his chair and then we use a lot of physical therapy to get him stronger," said Dr. Thorton.

The grade schooler was first diagnosed with the debilitating disorder when he was barely a toddler. His family says he's never let his physical limitations stop him from dreaming of a career in politics like his hero, Sarah Palin.

"We just don't say nothing. I really thought he wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, but uh uh," said Annette Lanking, Keshawn's grandmother.

Keshawn was all smiles when he saw his specially adapted bike arrive.

"Amtrykes are really all about abilities. We designed them with children with disabilities in mind," said Bob Richard, Amtryke.

If purchased, the adapted bicycle has an average cost of $1,000 or more, but it is a gift from the Danville, Ill., not-for-profit group AMBUCS. They heard about Keshawn through a national wish list.

"You put them on that trike and suddenly their whole world is no longer this big, it's this big," said Donna Carlton-Vish, AMBUCS.

As Keshawn enjoys his new freedom, he has some advice for other kids like him.

"Don't give up on your dreams. Keep doing them and you'll do it right," he said.

Two other families also received special bikes for their kids Friday.

AMBUCS hopes to open a Chicago chapter soon.