Thomas Schmedke, 13, has had a long walk to school every day. With limited use of his legs due to a congenital defect, arthrogryposis, it can be even longer than his peers’ trip to class.
But as of Sept. 21, he can commute like most kids his age can: with a bicycle.
With the help of J & R Cyclery and a local good Samaritan, Thomas now owns a Sun HT-3 Hand Trike, which is a bicycle he can pedal with his hands.
“I got it Saturday, and I biked all around town all that day,” he said.
Tony Santiastevan was the one who got the idea to donate a bike to Thomas. Santiastevan had seen Thomas around town and decided he wanted to help him move around faster.
“He’s just a tough kid,” Santiastevan said.
Santiastevan met Thomas at the Moffat County Fair and said he immediately was impressed with the 13-year-old because of his good attitude.
“He was at the fair and he was helping out kids in the bouncy house,” Santiastevan said.
Santiastevan asked Thomas if he ever had wanted a bicycle. Thomas told him yes, but his family never had been able to afford it.
Thomas’ mother, Jana Sauer, said she had looked at bikes for Thomas before but the price could be anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 for a bicycle that Thomas could use. Not being able to have wheels was a challenge for Thomas.
“His Boy Scout troop, they went on bike rides,” she said. “He was never able to go with them.”
Santiastevan worked out a deal with J & R Cyclery to donate a hand trike at cost if he could raise the $730 for the custom bike that would cost $1400 at retail.
Aaron Ruvalid, who runs J & R Cyclery, said he helped Thomas because he wanted Thomas to have a safe way to get around.
Ruvalid’s cousin had become paralyzed when he wrecked on a cheap bike, so Ruvalid made a point of getting high-quality bicycles to people in the community. He also works with people who can’t afford helmets to get them at cost.
“This one hit home for me,” Ruvalid said, adding that he helped out “to make (Thomas) smile.”
It only took Santiastevan three days to gather money from local businesses for the cause. It was exciting, he said, to see Thomas ride his bike.
“It was very heart-warming,” Santiastevan said. “I was excited to see he was able to ride it without a problem.”
Sauer said her son is thoroughly enjoying his new ride.
“I couldn’t talk him out of riding his bike to school,” she said, even in the rain.
Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.