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

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Bikes and cycling are an integral part of the fabric of the Davis community. One local organization helping children with disabilities enjoy cycling alongside everyone else is NorCal Trykers.

Since 2017, NorCal Trykers, centered in Davis, has been a nonprofit organization created to provide customized therapeutic tricycles for 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 to the lives of worthy recipients in the greater Sacramento area of Northern California. 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 Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento.

She began her career in London, England, and came to America in 2002. Williams has a life-long love and belief in the benefits of exercise and wanted to take this into NorCal Trykers to enable children with special needs to ride trikes and exercise with ease.

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

“I thought it’s nice they are doing this program once a year to provide bikes for 20 children,” Williams said. “But how cool would it be to bring a chapter to northern California so we could provide trykes to a wider population? I really wanted to bring the joy and benefits of cycling to special needs kids.”

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

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

“It’s a wonderful match to have it here in Davis,” Williams said. “You can imagine being a child with special needs sitting in a wheelchair watching your friends cycle around. With our trykes, that child could be independent and play alongside them. So it’s not just the physical benefits that come with these tricycles, but the social and psychological benefits as well.”

While there is no central hub or official office, NorCal Trykers does have a 16-foot box trailer, helped paid for by donations from the Woodland Sunrise Rotary Club. The trailer holds sample tricycles made by a team of committed volunteers for special bike fitting events held half a dozen times a year. 70% of their work comes in Yolo County, with a few events in Woodland in Davis this year.

Anything from hand-powered, foot-powered, and hand and foot combo-powered trykes fill the trailer so selected children with disabilities can try them out and see what type of pedals, saddle, and handlebars are right for them. While there, the team of volunteers will mock up and order a custom-built tricycle for the child.

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

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

A child testing out their custom-built tricycle provided by the team of volunteers working for NorCal Trykers. (Courtesy)
A child testing out a sample tricycle provided by the team of volunteers working for NorCal Trykers. (Courtesy)

NorCal Trykers has also impacted Woodland by donating six tricycles to Green Gate School and another to Zamora Elementary.

Williams lists 100 Men Who Give a Damn About Yolo Country, The Davis Odd Fellows, Davis Kiwanis International, the Davis and Woodland Sunrise Rotary Clubs, Soroptomipsts Davis, and a private donor in Woodland who Williams mentions has given $37,000 over the past three years as major donors.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” Williams insists. “We dont have the manpower and energy. What I do is very time-consuming, and my committee works full-time. This is everything to us as we really rely on public donations. We are just so grateful.”

Families are also free to donate if they so choose. There is no pressure to donate upon receiving a tricycle, but Williams mentions any donations are graciously accepted.

“My heart and soul are in this,” Williams said. “I firmly believe in the benefits of getting on a bike or tryke, having fun, and being in the fresh air. So many families have benefited from it. It’s been a great journey, and this has some legs and will continue.”

For more information on the organization, a schedule of events, information on how to get a tryke, or if you are interested in donating, please visit their website at https://norcaltrykers.com/home.