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St. Petersburg charities team up to buy a bike for child with cerebral palsy

Presley, 4, will receive an adaptive bike at a fundraiser ride for children with special needs.

Four-year-old Presley Dickson has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. The Palm Harbor child can’t walk or stand unassisted, so she uses a walker to get around. But that hasn’t stopped her from learning how to swim, dance and play with her friends.

Now, Presley wants to ride a bike with her neighbors and younger sister.

“All of her friends are able-bodied children and ride normal bikes and tricycles,” said her mom, Hunter Dickson, 29.

Dickson found out about Charlie’s Champs, a St. Petersburg-based nonprofit dedicated to providing opportunities for children with disabilities. After spending time on the organization’s wait list, Presley will soon receive an adaptive bike built specially for her needs at the Just Be A Kid Bike Ride on Dec. 5.

The fundraiser, taking place at Lurie Park at the Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch at 5500 62nd Ave. N in Pinellas Park, is also a bike rally for children with special needs and their families. The goal is to help the children enjoy biking within the safe confines of the specially designed park, according to a news release.

“With COVID and things, a lot of these kids have been stuck at home,” said Amanda Grozdanic, an occupational therapist who is organizing the event. “We were trying to find a way to give back to these kids.”

The fundraiser event is a collaboration between Charlie’s Champs Florida, Experienced Autism Alliance and Grozdanic’s organization, FUSE (Functional Useful Skills Experiences) Therapy. The St. Pete Bike Club is also supporting the cause.

Bikes will be available for children who need them, or they can bring their own adaptive bikes. Children from up to 25 families will be able to bike at the park, staggered by 15 minutes each for social distancing. There will also be a craft for the kids and music, all with coronavirus safety procedures.

An adaptive bike like the one Presley needs would cost between $4,800 and $6,000, Dickson said. They are often customized, with features like special supports to keep them on the bikes or pedals that allow family members to push riders when they get tired.

“It’s very individualized to the kids’ needs, which is why they cost so much,” she said. “They are pretty heavy and pretty bulky.”

So far, the organizations have raised $2,000 of the $4,000 needed for Presley’s bike. Any extra funds will go to the Experienced Autism Alliance.

Having an adaptive bike means a lot to Presley and her family, Grozdanic said. She has been working on standing and walking independently after undergoing a life-changing procedure in July. Presley has made great progress while using an adaptive bike to strengthen her legs and gain mobility in a clinic setting.

“These wheels are like her legs,” Grozdanic said. “This is her way of getting to play and getting to keep up with her family. This is huge for her to get her set of wheels.”

Donations can be made at charlieschampsfl.com. To get more information or to book a slot to participate in the fundraiser, contact Grozdanic at info@fusetherapy.org or 918-810-3109.

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