Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Disabled boy's joy at adapted tricycle

A DISABLED Henley boy will be able to go out riding with his friends after the town’s Lions Club bought him a specially adapted £2,000 tricycle.

A DISABLED Henley boy will be able to go out riding with his friends after the town’s Lions Club bought him a specially adapted £2,000 tricycle.

Ben Sleet has spina bifida, a condition in which the backbone fails to close in the womb and the nerves supplying the lower body are not protected, leading to damage.

The six-year-old, who lives in Gainsborough Hill with his parents Michael and Angela and older siblings Liam and Gemma, can only walk with a zimmer frame and both his legs in braces.

He also has club foot, a dislocated left hip, epilepsy, for which he takes regular medication, and hydrocephalus, which required the installation of a shunt when he was a baby to stop fluid building up on his brain.

Ben, who is about to start year 2 at Valley Road Primary School, bumped into some classmates about a month ago while walking along the Thames towpath near Mill Meadows with his mother.

The youngsters invited Ben to stop and play but he declined because they were riding bicycles and he was upset that he couldn’t do this.

Mrs Sleet, who is his full-time carer, approached spina bifida charity Shine for advice and they told her about Tomcat, a company that makes tricycles for the disabled.

She couldn’t afford to buy one so asked for help from the Lions, who visited Ben and then agreed to fund the purchase. The organisation, which is part of the Lions International movement, makes regular donations to charities and good causes in the area.

The trike arrived two weeks ago and Ben has been riding it for several hours a day ever since.

It has a single fixed gear so can be pedalled backwards and a rear steering handle with an emergency brake so it can be guided by a parent or carer.

It has front and rear brakes like a regular bike, a saddle with back support and a safety harness and long, wide pedals with straps for children who wear leg braces. It is expected to last five years before he outgrows it.

Ben and his mother now enjoy regular rides around the Gainsborough estate and hope to visit Makins recreation ground when he is more accomplished. They hope he will soon be able to ride alongside other children. Mrs Sleet said: “He got very upset when he saw his friends riding bikes. I just broke down when he asked why he couldn’t do what they were doing. I could see the trike was going to make a big difference but it cost a lot and there was no way we could fund it.

“When the Lions said they would pay, I was overjoyed and started to cry.

They’re such wonderful people and it’s made a big difference to his life. “We’ve been out on it loads and you can barely get him off — it’s hard to get anything done at home because it’s all he wants to do!

“Ben has had lots of operations to correct his foot and we’re very grateful to the surgeons because he wouldn’t have been able to ride this without them.

“Now that he can ride, it will strengthen his legs and increase his mobility. I want him to be able to mix with other children and live as active a life as possible.

When he’s a bit older I can take him down to the river and places like that. We’re very grateful to the Lions for making it possible.”

Ian Tritton, the Lions’ community service chairman, said: “Having met Ben, Henley Lions decided he deserved the opportunity to join his friends on their bikes this summer and quickly get the benefit of the exercise.

“He is now able to participate with his friends and develop strength in his legs, and with an enormous smile and cheeky laughter.

“This could not be achieved without all the people who support our fund-raising events with donations and the work our members do for the community.”

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