Dear Athletes Helping Athletes,
I would really love to have a bike so that I can ride with my friends and my family. We have
bike trails in our city that I would be able to use. I think I would have a lot of fun on a
The events surrounding the birth of our daughter Brianna came as a complete surprise. My
husband and I found out 3 weeks before her due date that she had spina bifida and needed to be
delivered early by way of c-section. Spina bifida is a neurological birth defect where the
spine does not completely close. This leaves an opening on her back exposing her spinal cord
and ultimately leaving her with nerve damage. Much like that of a spinal cord injury.
Determined to give our daughter the same opportunities in life that other kids have, we began
physical therapy for her at 3 months of age at a facility called Turnstone that offers services
for children and adults with physical disabilities. It became a home away from home for us. And
despite all the efforts to try to get Brianna to be able to walk, we finally conceded to
getting her a wheelchair at about the age of 4. This sparked a new sense of independence in her
that we had never seen before. At this point in her life she seemed to just take off! She had a
younger brother by now that was 2 years old and using her wheelchair allowed her to follow him
around freely and "keep tabs" on him as so many older sisters do.
By the time Brianna was 5 years old she was challenging those two and three times her age to
wheelchair races down the hall or across the gym. With her dad and I having been athletes
through college and her dad still involved through coaching, it came as little surprise to us
that sports was something in her blood.
At age 6 she was old enough to begin participating in some of the youth sports programs offered
at Turnstone. While that was an exciting time for her, it was also a difficult one too as she
was discovering her difference from the kids who could walk. We began to see changes in her
behavior out in public. She was becoming a little more timid and reserved. She was one of the
first kids at her elementary to be in a wheelchair, and it was a big adjustment not only for
the school, but also for her.
However, on the nights she would have soccer at Turnstone, she would come out of that shell she
had begun to go into. And as she began participating in more sporting activities, the more she
began to gain increased self confidence. It gave her an avenue where she felt in the norm. It
allowed her to participate in accessible events in a primarily inaccessible world. And as she
has had to go sit through her brother's t-ball and soccer games, he in return has had to go and
sit through her soccer, tennis, and now basketball games.
As an active eight-year-old, approaching 9 in July, it would bring great joy to her to have a
hand cycle to be able to go bike riding through the neighborhood with her brother, family, and
other neighborhood friends. I hope you would consider Brianna a very worthy recipient for a
hand cycle through the Athletes Helping Athletes grant.