Moraine Park Technical College mechanical design and engineering students had many great things to say after completing a special bike project to end the school year:
“It was fun to do [something so] meaningful,” said Tyler Hess from Random Lake.
“I’m just glad we got the opportunity to help,” said Jonathan Schalow of Farmington.
“I love being outside; and am glad I could help someone enjoy the outdoors a little more,” said Jacob Fendt of Hartford.
But in the end, nothing said more on a cloudy May afternoon than the roaring laughter of 11-year-old Mason Schommer of West Bend; his wide smile utterly contagious as he sat alongside his mother, Megan, on a specially-modified, two-person trike.
“Mason can now experience something he really enjoys and gets to do what his cousins do and join in on bike rides. I can’t thank the students and teachers that helped with this enough. They went way above and beyond. I wish I could say more to thank them, but there … aren’t enough words,” Megan said before loading up the trike at the College’s Fond du Lac campus.
Mason has cerebral palsy and had the left side of his brain removed at age 4 due to epilepsy. He is autistic, non-verbal and is considered to be at roughly a 3- to 4-year old level. One of Mason’s greatest joys in life is going for bike rides, but this was becoming an increasingly difficult activity to participate in as an older child with special needs – especially considering Mason is unable to pedal and never will be able to.
Around Christmas time, however, an anonymous man donated money for the Lions Club of West Bend to buy Mason a special passenger-style trike where he could ride along next to someone else that could pedal for him.
Mason’s grandmother, Elizabeth, said the used trike was wonderful and had great “bones,” but there were a few problems:
“He can’t peddle, so his legs just hung down, which worried me. The handlebars were difficult to use. The seating position for the adult peddler is hard on the back and made peddling hard, especially on any kind of incline or dirt or gravel pavement.”
Short on money and options, Elizabeth turned to Moraine Park’s instructors – seeking either help or a recommendation on who else could lend a hand.
Mechanical design and engineering instructors Tom Roehl and Jeff Quackenboss immediately took it on as a student project of their own.
Throughout the spring semester, their students used their budding skills to redo the gears on the bike, add a plated footrest for Mason so his feet won’t drag down anymore, redo the handle bars to make it easier for the driver of the bike to navigate, and, perhaps most noticeably, lighten the bike considerably by removing extra equipment.
“I heard the guys spent about 15 hours working on this, and it definitely shows. It’s just amazing. It works so much better now. We’re just truly grateful,” Elizabeth said.
Elizabeth said Mason has been enjoying the bike immensely since picking it up from Moraine Park last month and is looking forward to many more rides now that summer is here. For these cherished opportunities to see Mason’s wide smile, and hear his constant laughter, Elizabeth said her family couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who made this possible.
“I’m not sure anyone realizes how much this means to us. Everything ‘special needs’ is outrageous in price. We have the cost of raising a special needs child and then adding 10 times the price for most basic items. So Moraine Park’s instructors and students and the man who donated the bike to Mason will forever hold a place dear in our hearts,” Elizabeth said. “We just want [Mason] to enjoy what so many take for granted.”
To learn more about Moraine Park Technical College, visit morainepark.edu.