MUSCATINE, Iowa–Like all kindergartners, Ryker Colon has a zest for life and a deep curiosity about the world around him. Over the summer, he started asking his parents for a bike, as many kids his age do. However, Ryker struggles with muscle weakness that makes it difficult for him to do daily tasks such as dressing himself or using the stairs. Though several trips to the Mayo Clinic have ruled out conditions such as muscular dystrophy, they have yielded no diagnosis.
Even so, Ryker’s parents want to make sure he has as fulfilling a childhood as possible. His father, Eddie Colon, shared that they started investigating bike options for him shortly after Ryker started asking for one. First, they tried a Strider balance bike, but it did not quite suit his needs. A scooter with a supportive seat did no better.
Further research led the Colons to discover Mississippi Bend Trykes, an organization in Bettendorf that builds adaptive bikes. The Colons knew they wanted to get Ryker a custom bike, but that it would take a long time to save for it. Each bike costs between $1,500 and $3,000 and requires payment upfront. Though the Mississippi Bend Trykes website encouraged families to fundraise for their child’s bike, the Colons felt uncomfortable about the idea.
Ever since she had his older brother in her class, McKinley kindergarten teacher Callie Pangburn had followed Ryker’s story. When he got her as his teacher this year, she wanted to support him any way she could. She saw the Colon’s efforts to get Ryker a bike, and she wanted to make sure he got one. Pangburn spoke with the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency’s physical therapist about what it would take to get Ryker a bike. As luck would have it, the Pilot Club had reached out to the AEA asking if they knew of any child in need of a bike who they could sponsor.
Delighted, Pangburn recommended Ryker and began the application process. She planned to keep it a secret. However, when she had a conference with the Colons to discuss Ryker’s progress and goals in October, she could not keep it to herself any longer.
When the Colons learned about the opportunity Pangburn had found for Ryker, they felt overjoyed. “She needs to know that she’s special and that we love her,” said Eddie Colon.
As for Pangburn, she simply felt good that she could help one of her students succeed. “This will help him meet his goals and the goals his family has for him.”