Special bike provides 5-year-old’s ‘baptism into independence,’ thanks to an area charity | Entertainment/Life | #specialneeds | #kids

Born at just 23 weeks, triplet Chance Dorcey spent the first 10 months of his life in the newborn intensive care unit at Ochsner Baptist. He went home connected to a feeding tube, along with a tracheostomy and other mechanisms meant to help him breathe. Today the 5-year-old receives speech, occupational and physical therapy from the Boh Center at Ochsner Hospital for Children.

“He loves all of his therapies and all of his therapists,” said Chance’s mother, Laura Dorcey, of Chalmette. “They have been nothing but amazing with him.”

Chance’s favorite therapy, however, is riding what’s called an adaptive bike.

“We hear all about it every week,” Dorcey said.

An adaptive bike features three wheels for extra stability, straps that will keep Chance’s feet in place when he’s pedaling, and support to help him sit up straight while riding. It also comes with a push handle, so caregivers can lend a hand with steering.

Chance with his siblings, Grace and Carlin, mom Laura and Tommy Dorcey.

A bike like this typically costs around $2,000 — a price tag most families cannot afford.

But now, thanks to the McLindon Family Foundation and a philanthropic bike ride, Chance owns his own adaptive bike. On Nov. 6, a dozen riders — including Ann McLindon, a nurse anesthetist at Ochsner — rode 108 miles from Baton Rouge to New Orleans and raised $30,000 to buy adaptive bikes for special needs children.

“We came from a family where your biggest freedom was your bike,” said McLindon, a New Orleanian who grew up with six siblings. “I’ll never forget my first bike. It’s a child’s baptism into independence.”

Her brother, Andrew McLindon, developed the idea for a family foundation nearly 14 years ago. His close friend’s hydrocephalic son struggled with balance and other developmental issues.

Chance dorsey Mclindons.jpeg

From left, McLindon Family Foundation members are Chris McLindon, John McLindon, Duncan McLindon, Ann McLindon and Andrew McLindon

“My brother’s friend said, ‘It breaks my heart, because he wants to be with these kids and he wants to ride a bike, but can’t ride a two-wheel bike,’” McLindon said. So her brother did some research, came across adaptive bikes and bought one for the little guy. His friend said it changed his son’s life.

During a subsequent holiday season, Andrew McLindon met with his siblings and made a proposal: Instead of purchasing gifts for one another, they could donate the money and provide bikes to children with special needs. The family was all-in, and they soon formed the McLindon Family Foundation.

“It blossomed from there,” said Ann McLindon.

The foundation is based in southeast Louisiana, but it has made donations in 27 states.

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It raises money through group bike rides, such as the recent one that stretched down River Road, from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Riders were given about four months’ notice, allowing them time to train for the journey.

“You realize, ‘We are healthy individuals with two good legs, two good lungs, and we can do this,’” McLindon said. “And even though it was hard and it was long, and your muscles got sore, you realize, ‘I’m doing this for somebody who might not be able to go a mile.’ And so you’re out there with focus and motivation.”

Around 4 p.m., McLindon’s crew arrived at the Boh Center, where the Dorcey family and several therapists awaited them.

“Chance is a bright spot at the Boh Center,” said Kristen Kurtz, a physical therapist who has been helping Chance improve his gross motor skills, such as walking and jumping. “He has a lot of energy, and he is really willing to work and get better.”

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When the McLindon Family Foundation revealed the new adaptive bike, Chance was “a little shy at first,” said Kurtz.

“There were a lot of unfamiliar faces,” she recalled. “He didn’t really want to get on the bike, because I think he was a little intimidated by all the people.”

Kurtz and her team brought out the clinic’s adaptive bikes, so that Chance’s siblings — Grace and Carlin — could ride one as well. This gave him a boost of confidence.

“As soon as he got on and started pedaling, he was fine,” Kurtz said. “He was riding around super happy.”

When Chance realized he was taking the bike home with him, he beamed.

“He did not want to get off,” said his mom. “Just to see him doing something with his brother and sister, something we never thought he’d be able to do, was amazing.”

Contact Suzanne Pfefferle Tafur at suzpfefferle@gmail.com

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