Sam Robb
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Sam Robb

Sam Robb

Dear Athletes Helping Athletes,

I would really enjoy having a handcycle because I would like to go bike riding with my family and friends. I love riding the handcycle and I was introducted to them through TAASC. Since I enjoyed riding the handcycle with TAASC, I will enjoy riding my own. I also feel I'll be able to use a handcycle for years,

A handcycle will also help me become a better athlete. It will build up strenght in my arms. It can also build up endurance so I can play longer. This is why I want a handcycle.

Sam Robb
April 23, 2004

Dear Friends,

Our son Samuel is a 10-year old C-7 quadriplegic. He is 4'2", 62 lbs. He has two sisters, 13-year old Sarah and Cassie who is six. Sam is a 5th grader and A student at High Point Elementary school in Gahanna, Ohio. He has been a 100% mainstreamed student there for five years now.

Samuel was born healthy. When he was 13 months old and we were vacationing with family on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, he fell suddenly and catastrophically ill. Physicians originally suspected bacterial meningitis but ruled this out quickly with a spinal tap. When he continued to digress, he was shipped to Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, RI and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit there. He appeared unable to move, paralyzed entirely, with no reflexes and doctors were afraid that his respiratory would come to a complete stop or because he was so weak and had no gag reflex, he would choke on his own saliva. Later he was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, because physicians were so perplexed by his symptoms, which appeared to be caused by a virus. He was eventually diagnosed with a rare, post-infectious encephalomyelitis due to an unknown virus.

After two years of hard work, we were informed that the likelihood of his recovery was small and his current quadriplegia is the result of the illness. His incredible and persistent personality has led him to accomplish surprising strength, stamina and independence. After 9 years of therapy and two tendon transfer surgeries at the Shriners Philadelphia Hospital (to provide a gross motor grasp and lateral pinch), he can dress and undress himself, perform his own transfer's, self-catheterize, walk with forearm crutches for short distances (wearing orthotics), all despite paralysis from the chest down and no independent finger function.

Sam loves athletics. He has participated in many mainstream as well as adapted athletics over the years including soccer, swimming, baseball, basketball, kayaking, handcycling, alpine skiing and most recently sled hockey.

When we arrived in Columbus, Ohio almost five years ago we became members of TAASC, The Adaptive Adventure Sports Coalition where Sam was introduced to downhill skiing, a sport he has grown to love. Sam uses a bi-ski and most of the time is tethered during his lesson. These last two years however, Sam's increased strength and skill has allowed him to experience short, untethered runs with his instructor. We can see now that he will become an independent skier with several more years of work, something we had never dreamed possible.

TAASC has developed a sled hockey program since 2001, and Sam has participated from the beginning. He began with no independent skating skills, requiring a skater behind him pushing while he participated in puck play. Today he is an independent skater who plays left wing for the Columbus Jr. Jackets Sled Hockey Team. The team joined forces with the Mighty Cleveland Barons at the 2004 Windsor Games (first competition) in the novice division winning the bronze (3rd) medal. He is enthralled with team play and the camaraderie that this type of athletics has to offer. Sam has the most involved injury on the team and requires his hands to be taped to the hockey sticks to play, a fact that does not deter him.

Sam plays 4-foot hoops in a recreational league in the Columbus Parks and Recreation program while incorporating goals in his physical education class at school to raise the height of the hoop. He hopes to play wheelchair basketball some day but knows that he will have to work exceptionally hard to be able to reach an official 10-foot hoop with a regulation size ball. His chest paralysis makes the goal a bit more daunting, but knowing Sam, certainly not unattainable.

As a family, we all like to ride bikes. We each have our own except for Sam. The only way for Sam to participate is to attend a clinic with TAASC, which limits his opportunity to weekly opportunities, if that. While learning to use a handcycle this worked fine - but now that Sam has become independent he would love to strike out on his with the girls, his neighborhood buddies, or all together as a family. The activity would also assist him increase his cardiovascular endurance and upper body strength in a way some of the other activities have not because of the time between practices or the nature of the activity.

Sam already has a goal of becoming a sports broadcaster. His involvement and successes with adaptive sports have helped him to understand the importance of a life long active lifestyle, as well as to maintain and build the self-esteem and confidence required to handle the constant exposure to mainstream sports at school that he cannot participate in fully the way his non disabled friends and peers can.

We appreciate the work and generosity of Athletes Helping Athletes and hope you can consider our request for a handcycle for Sam at this time.

Sharon Robb


Thanks so much for following up with our family and Sam in regards to the handcycle your organization so generously provided!  As usual, he has come a long way since receiving your gift.

Funny, but if you don't grow up riding a bike it takes a while not only to learn all about what you ride, but quite a bit to learn the nuances of the "sport" as well.  When to turn it on so as to "make the hill," when to use the gears and when to coast!  Last year, Sam needed a push at the crest of most of the hills in our neighborhood, so I would walk and he would ride.  This year that kind of assistance is no longer necessary, and he can indepenedently handle the neighborhood and surrounding rides!  Very exciting, so now we ride together.

We are moving to North Carolina [from Ohio] in the next 4 months and I suspect he will find a much longer riding season there. In addition, the Carolina Institute of Rehabilitation sponsors a ride to the sea that perhaps in time we can participate in.

Once again we would like to thank you all for making this possible. The equipment needs add up and I'm not sure where a handcycle would have fit in to the picture had you all not stepped up to the plate. Athletes Helping Athletes made the request and fulfillment so simple, that we are still overwhelmed by the manner in which it was all handled.  Amazing.

Our sincere gratitude - always!

Sharon Robb
Sam's mom

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