Bringing the Freedom of Mobility to Children
A child’s first wobbly steps or first tentative bike ride are precious moments cherished by parents. But not every family experiences these delightful milestones. For scores of disabled children, they can merely watch while their siblings and neighbors enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood.
The Lions Step In
Lions in Australia recognized that many children with mobility-impairing diseases miss out on many parts of development. Not only do they lose the physical sensation of walking, but many children miss the social opportunities other children gain by playing with classmates, riding bikes with their friends and taking walks with their siblings. Through Lions’ fundraising efforts and diligent partnerships, the Lions of Australia are providing innovative technology to children in need. The devices, called Hart Walkers and Freedom Wheels, allow children who lack mobility the opportunity to walk and ride a bike.
“With the Australian Lions Children’s Mobility Foundation, what we do is we try to provide an overall mobility system for kids with cerebral palsy,” said Elvio Munzone, the District Governor of the Sydney Lions. “Lions from all over Sydney provide the funds to provide these walkers so these children have freedom and they can walk with pride.”
Hard Work Pays Off
Children throughout Australia now have a chance to savor their mobility.
“The Lions club has helped my son who has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy to be an active participant in day to day life in that he’s able to up and run around with his peers,” said mom Cindy Shaw. “When Adam’s in his Hart Walker, he feels very strong and that he can do anything.”
But the children aren’t the only ones who benefit from this ambitious project. Second Vice District Governor Elect Steve Coleman said each child who receives these specialized devices is a powerful reminder of the We Serve motto. “It brings such great rewards for me to show photos of the boys on the bikes to the other Lions so they can see the difference they have made,” Coleman said.
The Hart Walker that allows disabled children to walk upright is composed of more than 1,000 moving parts. During a five-year period, each Hart Walker device costs about $12,000 in Australian currency. Each Freedom Wheels bike is customized to the child’s size and abilities.
Tips and Tools
Make It Happen: Help kids with mobility issues
Why did the club decide on this project? »
It’s a need in our community that exists everywhere. There’s inherit physical benefits to giving every child the ability to walk, but also intangible experiences that we hope to provide for each child.
Where do the funds come from? »
Lions throughout the area earmark funds for this project. On occasion, we receive requests and clubs may have a specific event, like a barbecue, dance or social to raise the money especially for that child.
How can we do this in our community? »
In every corner of the world, there are children and adults with cerebral palsy and other mobility-impairing illnesses. There is always an opportunity to give these people mobility, and thus, freedom. Projects that you could adopt include providing a medical equipment bank to lend to those in need or perhaps sponsoring a child with a disability in order to fundraise for their changing needs on a long-term basis.
How are the devices distributed? »
We’ve partnered with other organizations to provide the know-how required for this project. This technology is delicate and requires skill to fit each child. By seeking out organizations that specialize in this, we are able to direct funds into a project with a great impact.
Any special words of advice? »
This ongoing project is a marathon, not a sprint, but when you see the joy that it brings to individuals, your club will be motivated to keep providing such a vital service.
"Lions from all over Sydney provide the funds to provide these walkers so these children have freedom and they can walk with pride."
District Governor of the Sydney Lions
"The boys are much happier since they got the bikes. They’re able to enjoy things that other children take for granted. I never expected to be able to take my children for a bike ride and now that I’m able, it’s fantastic."
"The Hart Walker has made a tremendous difference for Joanne’s life. It has helped her to be happy and participate again with the other children. And it’s made a lot of friends for her."