When Mesa mom Molly Wright found out through her role with Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s Family Advisory Council that a charity was looking for a child who might be able to put an electric bike to good use, she thought of her son.
Born with a congenital heart defect that left him with only two chambers, her 12-year-old son Mark has had three open-heart surgeries and is a regular at the hospital, Wright said. But despite his desire to be active, his condition has made it difficult.
So, the owners of Pedego Electric Bikes’ Glendale/Peoria location teamed up with the Beverly Hills-based charitable organization Angela’s Angels to give Mark a Comfort Cruiser.
“He’s always been very active and loves sports — any type of active adventure he loves — and so it’s been a little harder,” Wright explained. “We’d like to go on bike rides as a family, and that got to be harder for him. He would complain, ‘I’m tired,’ couldn’t keep up, and when you’re at the back of the pack, you are not having fun, especially if you’re a boy that age.”
It was a surprise for Mark, who was led to believe he had an appointment with his cardiologist. Instead, he received the bike in front of his family, hospital staff and others who made the donation possible. And though his mom said he’s generally reserved, he was “beaming” and shaking his head in surprise.
“We showed up for what he thought was a check-in with his doctor and they were there with the bike, and it was awesome,” Wright said enthusiastically. “He was so excited. He had no idea. He even saw people standing there with a bike with balloons, and he still didn’t know it was for him. He just thought, ‘Oh, someone’s here with a bike.’ He didn’t realize that was going to be his bike.”
The story behind how the bike came to Mark is one of connections. Carl Roberts, a local Pedego customer, happens to be the father of Angela Roberts, who is the executive director of Angela’s Angels. Though her organization traditionally donates personal electronic devices (like iPads and tablets) to pediatric patients, the idea to do a bike came up. Carl has had heart valve issues, but he and Angela credit his use of his own electric bike to positive results he has seen.
So, when the ability for local Pedego owners Steve Pike and wife Sherry Roueche to partner with Angela’s Angels came up, Roueche recalled, they wanted in — and they got with Pedego Headquarters to make it happen.
“(Carl’s) been an ambassador for our store, and so we’ve been in close contact with him,” Pike added. “He’s always in the store, and that just kind of led us to the fact that Angie was giving away laptops, and I just reached out to her and said that’s great, we’d like to do that sometime with a bike.”
It’s not Roueche or Pike’s first turn with a charitable venture.
“We give back to the community quite a bit. … We just have that philanthropic heart and give back to the community,” Roueche said.
Since she came to Arizona in 1998 she has been an active volunteer with HandsOn Greater Phoenix, a nonprofit that finds opportunities for volunteers. She also serves on the board of directors for Miracle League of Arizona, a nonprofit that offers baseball to individuals with special needs.
“We’re very happy to support the community in which we live and work,” she said.
Mike’s new bike is a 26-inch step-thru Comfort Cruiser, Pike detailed. It has five levels of pedal assist — allowing a top speed of 20 mph on the fifth setting — and a throttle option. The upgraded 36-volt, 15 ah battery, he added, has a range of about 45 miles when charged. He calls it a “classic”-style bike.
And Mark took a liking to it right off the bat, his mom said.
“The second we got home, he was just out on that thing,” Wright said. “We have a neighborhood that’s safe for him to ride around in, and so he’s been out constantly on it, I mean, just in heaven, living, just going, giving him a little freedom to go places.
“My husband likes to go on longer rides, so that very first weekend he went with my husband on a 20-mile ride,” she continued. “They left from our house and went to the airport and back … and there’s a bike path that goes, so they did the bike path, and he came home so proud of what he was able to do because he wasn’t tired and he could keep up with my husband.
“In fact, my husband was trying to keep up with him, which was a bit of a turnaround,” she added. “It was just so much fun for him. It gave him a lot of confidence and helped him feel like being active is something he could do — that it wasn’t so hard for him. So, it’s been really neat to see him thriving with it and enjoying it so much.”
It was difficult to see him losing the motivation to go on bike rides, she admitted. Now, that’s no longer the case — and she’s thankful to all those who made it possible at Pedego, Angela’s Angels and the hospital.
“It just makes me happy that I can see that he feels confident and that he isn’t discouraged when he’s trying to just do something easy, like a bike ride,” she explained. “That’s easy for us, and we feel like, ‘Hey, come on. We’re just going on a bike ride.’ But he started to not want to do those things. And that’s hard, when you want to spend time as a family and you have a member of the family who struggles to keep up.
“So, for us it’s been really fun to just see him ready and excited for whatever, because he feels like he can be part of it and not be held back. As a parent, when you see your kids struggling with something, you want to figure out a way to help them. And this was a huge blessing and has really been great to help him feel like he can be part of things that maybe he wouldn’t have been or that he would have had a hard time doing.”