Curtis Stubbs can remember seeing a girl take her first steps and welling up with pride. Born with legs that could not support her, doctors told her parents she would never walk.
But at about age 5 she was gifted with a special tricycle, assembled by Stubbs and his friends at Air Capitol AMBUCS. That trike, built just for her, provided her with hours and hours of physical therapy.
"It was a hand-crank trike with a bar on the back," Stubbs said. "Her legs were like toothpicks."
It took a couple of years of walking behind the trike, but she was able to learn to walk.
"I saw her take her first three steps, independently," Stubbs said. "We then gave her a foot crank only trike. Our trikes gave her the physical therapy she needed to wake up her leg muscles. They had to do minor surgery on her legs. Only by riding her trike was she able to build the muscle mass she needed for surgery."
She has gone on to compete in the Special Olympics, becoming a javelin champion in another state.
The AMBUCS program is privately funded, meaning the trikes are given away rather than sold.
"We raise funds and give trikes to disabled people," Stubbs said. "We are always in need."
The average trike, which can be a hand-cranked trike, have a walking bar on the back or be a traditional pedal crank based on need, costs about $1,000. Stubbs said he has helped assemble about 100 of the tricycles in the last eight years.
Established in 1994, AmTryke LLC is a company owned and operated by National AMBUCS Inc. AMBUCS is a national nonprofit service organization dedicated to creating mobility and independence for people with disabilities.
Stubbs has been part of the effort for eight years, with the Wichita chapter established 10 years ago. The Wichita chapter’s website can be found at www.aircapitalambucs.com.
To date, over 15,300 AmTryke vehicles have been distributed around the world. The majority of these trikes are purchased by volunteer members of the AMBUCS organization and donated free of charge to children in financial need.
Stubbs has assembled about 100 of them.
These unique tricycles, which can be hand and/or foot operated, are designed to accommodate riders of all ages, sizes, and varying degrees of physical limitations.
And when bikes are given, it can be quite an event.
"There is always a problem that goes with it — once you get the kids on an going, they do not want to get off," Stubbs said. "When it is time to go home, we can’t get them off the trike. They have a death grip. A father, in two cases, had to carry the kid and the kid had a death grip on the trike and the kid would not let loose until they were in their vans."
The child was convinced that the bike was going home with them, and they could ride it again as soon as they get home.
"You know, this is the first time the kids can do something that feels normal, otherwise they are confined to a wheelchair," Stubbs said.