January 18, 2012

New wheels for Sierra

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

The life of a child with special needs is full of challenges and blessings.
When the routine tasks that come so easily to most children don’t to a child with a disability, the sheer weight of day-to-day management can become overwhelming. And questions of how or when will needs be met and what will the future hold only add to the load their loved ones carry.
Thankfully, there are blessings that come too. Blessings that bring help and relief.
For Sierra Frick, a six-year-old girl with an unknown syndrome that hinders her ability to walk and talk, the blessings have taken on many different forms, the most recent being that of a bike race.
The Medcenter One Great American Bike Race (GABR) is an annual fundraising event that raises money for families who have children with cerebral palsy and other related diseases.
According to Sierra’s mother, Melissa Frick, through GABR, Sierra has been given a lot of equipment necessary for her to perform daily activities, including the new Walkabout gait trainer she received just after the school year started.
Sierra’s new Walkabout fully supports her six-year-old body, enabling her to stand and walk without assistance. And for Sierra’s family, this is simply the most recent of many blessings Sierra has been given.
When Sierra was an infant, she qualified for North Dakota’s infant development program. In addition to needed services like speech and therapy, the state provided specialized equipment to aid in her development. But when Sierra reached the age of three, she became ineligible for the program and started receiving services through Wilmac.
Melissa states that though she was ineligible, the state allowed them to continue using the infant development program’s equipment with the condition that if another child in the program needed it, the family would have to return the equipment.
Sierra, while enrolled in Wilmac, also attended the Wiggles & Giggles Day Care. Wilmac sent teachers to work with Sierra at Wiggles & Giggles and began searching for an aide to help with Sierra’s care and development. They found that and so much more in Kathy Aberle.
Kathy not only worked with Sierra at Wiggles & Giggles, but continues to be her aide now that she is in kindergarten. In addition, Kathy helps Sierra during summers and on occasions when Sierra’s parents need to leave and are unable to bring Sierra along.
“We waited a long time for Kathy,” Melissa states.
According to Kathy, the Walkabout Sierra received from GABR has made such a difference for her at school and home.
“It helps her get used to weight-bearing, which is the hardest thing for Sierra to do,” states Aberle.
The conventional walker Sierra had been borrowing required someone to hold onto her while she attempted to stand or walk, putting strain on her helper and not really giving her independence.
Now, with the help of GABR, she can practice a normal walking pattern while strengthening her muscles and being more independent.
“Everything we have received from GABR improves Sierra’s daily life and enhances her possibilities for the future,” states Melissa.
Sierra’s parents became involved with GABR through her Rehabilitative Specialists, Dr. Kevin Murphy.
“One of the great things about GABR is that it is a local event that benefits families in North Dakota,” Melissa states. “Anyone in North Dakota with a child that qualifies can receive help.”
Melissa states that GABR has helped families receive wheelchairs, walkers, leg braces, and travel and medical expenses.
Every year in Bismarck teams of 12 riders gather donations before the event and take turns racing on a spin bike.
In 2011, 110 teams raised nearly $300,000, and since GABR started, it has raised a total of $1.5 million, all going to help children and families in western and central North Dakota.
It’s not easy to get on a team, but this year Melissa did. She is excited to participate in this year’s 2012 Great American Bike Race on Saturday, April 28, at Century High School in Bismarck.
According to Melissa, Sierra’s therapists think she shows the possibility of one day being able to walk and talk, but in her own time. Until then, with the help of Aberle, GABR, and Sierra’s loved ones, Sierra will continue to receive the love and support she needs to help her reach her potential.