Jake Terpstra

Jake Terpstra

Shriners give gift of mobility

Riley McLean hasn’t stopped smiling since he got his Segway.

“It’s so much fun. People are coming up to me and asking me about it. They all think it’s cool. Now I’ll be able to go on hikes with Scouts and I won’t get so tired all the time walking wherever I want to go. I say thank you so much to the Shriners for getting it for me,” said the 11-year-old Grade 5 Beairsto School student.

He has arthrogyropsis, a congenital condition which does not allow him to bend his knees and elbows and causes him to have  brittle bones.

The Segway Personal Transporter is an electric battery-powered, two-wheeled vehicle which was developed as a green alternative to cars. The user stands on it which suits Riley fine since he can’t sit down.

Anne Ross, occupational therapist for the Vernon School District, did the research and determined that the Segway would be the best mobility device for Riley, who finds it difficult to walk. Purchasing the Segway was turned down for provincial government funding because it is not a traditional mobility aid.

“I was lucky enough to meet the Shriners and that they provided the Segway. This will save Riley’s joints from the impact of walking, his knees would get very sore, and allow him to keep up with his peers. He’s very happy with it,” she said.

Riley was able to try out a Segway at the Spinal Cord Research Unit at Vancouver General Hospital last summer to make sure it was suitable for his needs.

Riley’s classmates are also pleased to see their friend get the Segway.

“It’s great how the Shriners help him so he can have a nicer life,” said Mason Christensen.

There will be a presentation about Riley and his Segway for all of the students in the school so they can learn how to help him use it safely in school and on the grounds and to join in activities. He will be using the Segway to get to and from school.

“All of the students and the teachers are happy to see him have it. Everyone wants to try it but we can’t allow that. We want the students to understand that this is a needful tool, not a toy,” said principal Wendy Varley.

Riley’s father Keith McLean tells what life has been like for his son up until now.

“This is one more step for Riley, doors open for him, miracles are standard in his life,” he said. “Riley came to us (mother Odette) when he was 20-months-old as a foster child. We didn’t know if he would ever walk or talk. But he has learned to walk in his way and talks well and is very bright. He has been in Beairsto since kindergarten and has lots of friends and swims and skateboards, which was difficult to learn since he has only his hips to move to balance and  control the board.”

For his parents, there is one miracle which they will never forget.

“As foster parents, we didn’t have the right to adopt but two weeks before we wanted to apply there was a court ruling that said it was unconstitutional to disallow foster parents to adopt. We were able to adopt him. He is an important part of our family. He’s a treat,” said Keith.

Riley has four older brothers and a sister, all adults and a large extended family with lots of cousins. His sister, a kinesiologist and coach, developed an individualized work-out program for him.

“What keeps him going is his drive. He really wants to do things and he fights for every little thing. He asked me about six months ago, ‘Dad, what does it mean to be handicapped?’ I said, ‘I think it’s something that happens to other people.’ We never focus on what he can’t do but what he can do,” said Keith.

“He’s a typical boy. Every day he gets up and makes the most of every single moment.”

The Segway cost $8,000, much less than a wheelchair and specialized van would cost, and has lower maintenance costs. The Segway can be easily transported in the family car.

The Shriners of B.C. and Yukon Vernon Shrine Club #7 provided the entire cost of the Segway. There has now been an application made to see if Riley can have further treatment at one of the Shriners children’s hospitals in the U.S.

“We saw that Riley had a real need for this equipment and we wanted to help him in every way we could,” said Jake Terpstra, with the Vernon Shrine Club.

He was the driver for four years of the Care Cruiser, the specialized Shriners bus that takes children and their families to medical treatment in Vancouver.

“You feel pretty good about being able to provide a service like that. And we feel good about helping Riley. He got that Segway and he was gone. He was one happy youngster. We’re glad we were able to provide him with this mobility.”