Highland Park boy paralyzed in shooting receives adaptive bike, thanks to Project Mobility
As first reported in online Silent Sports magazine, the 8-year-old boy paralyzed in Highland Park's July Fourth shooting can ride a bike again. Thanks to Project Mobility and fundraising by George Pastorino, Cooper Roberts received his customized hand cycle Jan. 6.
Project Mobility, launched in 2004 by Hal Honeyman, owner of The Bike Rack in St. Charles, is a nonprofit supporting hundreds of adaptive biking activities, workshops and other services countrywide and overseas.
In 1997, Honeyman also founded Creative Mobility, a business attached to his shop that builds and customizes adaptive bikes and related equipment.
The donation idea originated through Project Mobility's Facebook page. Per Tamara Simmons, director of development, readers messaged the organization wanting to help after viewing a letter by Cooper's mother, Keely Roberts.
She posted a late September letter to the GoFundMe page. After Cooper returned home, he began realizing the various recreational activities he'd miss -- playgrounds, sports, backyard play -- "a bike in the garage that sits idle that we used to have to fight him to stop riding each day ..."
Demo bike for fitting
"I saw the story and knew right away we needed to help him with a hand cycle," said Honeyman. "I was able to contact Mom and get one of our demo bikes to Cooper for fitting, and left it for Cooper to ride."
This hand cycle was one of several adaptive bikes Project Mobility displays at its clinics. With Cooper seated in the three-wheeler, Honeyman noted adjustments his Creative Mobility mechanics needed to fit a hand cycle for Cooper.
As with road bikes, basic measurements -- torso, arm span, leg length -- help determine how to position components like the seat, foot platform and, for a hand cycle, length and placement of the front wheel's crank assembly.
For Cooper, that assembly needed shortening, requiring cutting metal and then welding it back together. The trike purchased is an Invacare Excelerator Jr., with a three-speed front wheel hub and coaster brakes.
Adaptive bikes like this one cost thousands. Supporter George Pastorino led the charge covering the cost. While initial fundraising had been going slowly, "when Hal called me with the Cooper Roberts story, I was sure I could convince my donors to give enough money."
At Project Mobility's October Hops for Hope 5K and Brewfest event, Pastorino, past president of the Elmhurst Bicycle Club, was hailed as the top fundraiser, collecting $4,635.
Project Mobility's events director, Katherine Reda, sings Pastorino's praises.
"George has always been one of Project Mobility's biggest supporters. He's amazing at rallying his friends and those in the Elmhurst Bicycle Club to donate to Project Mobility. When he has a goal we know he'll always reach it."
Pastorino, currently club Mountain Bike coordinator, recently stepped down after seven years as president. In that time, EBC raised enough money for about a dozen adaptive youth bikes.
In 2016, the Elmhurst Independent newspaper reported the club raised $6,500, matched by Project Mobility, to purchase adaptive bikes for six children with disabilities. In 2019, the club raised over $11,000. Pastorino notes EBC has been donating to Project Mobility since 2011.
Honeyman's family personally understands the emotional pain of children with disabilities. Son Jacob developed cerebral palsy from brain bleeding shortly after birth.
"It's one thing to see other families with a special-needs child," Honeyman muses. "But until you live through it, you really don't get it."
Honeyman notes Cooper's reaction to the hand cycle.
"I have fitted thousands of adaptive bikes for kids and adults. The look of joy and freedom that Cooper expressed was one of the best I've seen."
"It was beyond heartwarming and humbling to see and feel his joy, and watch him ride his new bike," Pastorino added.
"When Hal phoned Jan. 4, about delivering the bike next day and the family wanted to meet me, I was overjoyed," he said. "It was quite challenging, as I'd had a total knee replacement Dec. 27 and wasn't yet able to drive. My wife, Pussanee, took the day off and drove me there. I had a blast limping around in shorts and flip-flops chasing Cooper, taking pics and videos.
"Cooper and the family were full of gratitude for me, but I tried to redirect that toward Hal and Project Mobility. None of this happens without them, the true heroes."
A bike corral is loaded with bikes at the February 2022 Chicago Winter Bike Swap at the Kane County Fairgrounds. This year, the event takes place Sunday, Feb. 12.
- Courtesy of Dane Honeyman
Winter bike swap
Winter biking -- sometimes so cold your eyes water and your nostrils drip like cheap candles -- goes beyond frigid outings, like test riding bikes indoors on Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Chicago Winter Bike Swap presented by Trek.
The event begins at 9:30 a.m., with doors opening at 8:30 a.m., at the Kane County Fairgrounds. Attendees queue early for first crack at hundreds of new/used bikes and equipment offered by vendors and individuals. Admission is $5, $5.50 with credit card.
Expect 65 vendors and 20 ride/service organizations, like Ride Illinois, Chicago Area Mountain Bikers, and International Women's Day Together We Ride. Title sponsor Trek hosts an e-bike demo track. Test riders earn a $100 coupon good at participating Trek dealers.
The fairgrounds are at 525 S. Randall Road, St. Charles.
Clara Honsinger crosses the finish line as Elite Women Cyclocross national champion in December 2021 at Wheaton's Cantigny Park.
- Courtesy of Snowy Mountain Photography/USA Cycling
DuPage Sports Commission hosted the 2021 National Cyclocross Championships at Wheaton's Cantigny Park in December. Fourteen of those racers were chosen to represent the U.S. in the recent 2023 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Hoogerheide, Netherlands.
They included Clara Honsinger and Raylyn Nuss (Elite Women), Curtis White (Elite Men), Madigan Munro and Lizzy Gunsalus (U23 Women) and Andrew Strohmeyer (U23 Men).
• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at firstname.lastname@example.org.