EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

December 31, 2009

Disabled Salem girl receives special bike

Disabled Salem girl receives special bicycle

SALEM, N.H. — Being surprised with a brand new bicycle is a special moment for any kid. But for 13-year-old Chelsea Mannion, whose cerebral palsy has made it impossible for her to ride a regular bike, the gift she received yesterday was priceless.

"It's great. She's had a tough year with surgeries and stuff, so to see her smile, it's great," said her father, Dennis Mannion.

Chelsea could not stop smiling as she rode her shiny red AmTryke therapeutic tricycle through the halls of the Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital in Salem. When her mother said it was hers to keep, Chelsea gave her a big hug.

"It's good," Chelsea said of the bike. "I can keep up with my brother."

Her parents had given her a regular, two-wheel bicycle in the past. But cerebral palsy affects motor skills and muscle strength, making it impossible for Chelsea to ride.

"We always had a tough time finding a bike that could fit her," her father said.

So when friends would ride their bikes around the dead-end street in Salem where Chelsea lives, she would have to do something else.

"On the street, she would just push a baby carriage or walk," he said.

But with her new tricycle, all that will change. Chelsea first used an AmTryke at the hospital during therapy, clinic manager Jennifer Kelley said.

"We used it as part of her therapy program, to help with her coordination and strengthen her legs," Kelley said. "It was the first time she was able to use a bike on her own."

The tricycles are provided by AMBUCS, a national service organization devoted to helping disabled people become more mobile. Chelsea's tricycle costs upward of $500.

Chelsea's mother, Lisa Mannion, said it was a perfect fit.

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