NorCal Trykers continues to provide mobility and fun for children with special needs

Bikes and cycling are an integral part of the fabric of the Davis community. NorCal Trykers is a local organization that helps kids with disabilities ride bikes with everyone else.

Since 2017, Davis-based NorCal Trykers has been a non-profit organization created to provide personalized therapy tricycles to children with special needs at no cost to families.

According to their website, their mission is to provide mobility, exercise, confidence, and a sense of normalcy in the lives of worthy beneficiaries in the greater Sacramento, Northern California area. NorCal Trykers is a chapter of National AMBUCS, Inc., located in North Carolina.

Gill Williams, the founder of NorCal Trykers, is a physical therapist who recently retired from the Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento.

She started her career in London, England and came to America in 2002. Williams has always loved and believed in the benefits of exercise and wanted to incorporate this into NorCal Trykers to enable children with special needs to ride a tricycle and exercise with ease.

While at Shriners, Williams mentioned that the hospital received a grant for a bike-fitting program for children who the hospital says would benefit from improving their health and fitness. Thus, an idea was born.

“I thought it was good that they did this program once a year to provide bikes for 20 kids,” Williams said. “But how cool would it be to bring a chapter to northern California so we can provide trykes to a larger population? I really wanted to bring the joy and benefits of cycling to children with special needs.

Williams, who lives in Davis, thinks NorCal Trykers and the city are a perfect match.

A child riding a custom-built tricycle provided by the volunteer team working for NorCal Trykers. (Courtesy)

“It’s a wonderful game to have him here at Davis,” Williams said. “You can imagine being a kid with special needs sitting in a wheelchair and watching his friends ride their bikes. With our trykes, this child could be independent and play alongside him. So it is not only the physical benefits that come with these tricycles, but also the social and psychological benefits.

Although there is no central hub or official office, NorCal Trykers has a 16-foot trailer, funded by donations from the Woodland Sunrise Rotary Club. The trailer contains samples of tricycles made by a team of volunteers hired for special bike-building events held half a dozen times a year. 70% of their work comes from Yolo County, with a few events at Woodland in Davis this year.

Everything from hand, foot and hand and foot trykes fill the trailer so that selected children with disabilities can try them out and see what kind of pedals, saddle and handlebars suit them. On site, the team of volunteers will create a model and order a custom-made tricycle for the child.

Williams estimates NorCal Trykers has provided about 350 trykes to Yolo County families since 2017.

“We had wonderful testimonials and feedback from the family,” Williams said. “Instead of sitting in a wheelchair being pushed by a parent or guardian, you are now part of the event pedaling on a tricycle.”

A child tries out his custom tricycle provided by the volunteer team working for NorCal Trykers.  (Courtesy)
A child tests a sample tricycle provided by the volunteer team working for NorCal Trykers. (Courtesy)

NorCal Trykers also made an impact in Woodland by donating six tricycles to Green Gate School and another to Zamora Elementary.

Williams lists 100 Men Who Don’t Care About Yolo Country, the Davis Odd Fellows, Davis Kiwanis International, Davis and Woodland Sunrise Rotary Clubs, Soroptomipsts Davis, and a private donor to Woodland who Williams says gave $37,000 to the over the past three years as major donors.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” insists Williams. “We don’t have the manpower and the energy. What I do takes a lot of time and my committee works full time. That’s all for us because we really rely on donations from the public. We are so grateful.

Families are also free to donate if they wish. There’s no pressure to donate when receiving a tricycle, but Williams says all donations are graciously accepted.

“My heart and my soul are in this,” Williams said. “I’m a big believer in the benefits of riding a bike or a tryke, having fun and being in the fresh air. So many families have benefited from it. It was a great journey, and it has stages and will continue.

For more information about the organization, a schedule of events, information on how to get a tryke, or if you’re interested in donating, please visit their website at home.

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