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Great American Bike Race

The race where everyone wins
Medcenter One MedEquip One's Troy Lipp works with John Cicha.
Troy Lapp works with John Cicha to maximize his coordination and speech abilities. Cicha and Jacob Vetter, have benefited from specialized equipment thanks to the Sanford Health's Great American Bike Race.
  When Jacob Vetter went for a boat ride last summer with his family, it was a special first for the 11-year-old. The outing was made possible via a portable manual wheelchair provided through Sanford Health’s Great American Bike Race, also known as GABR.

Jacob is unable to walk because of cerebral palsy, a physical disability caused by damage to the brain that usually occurs before, during or shortly after birth. His motorized chair, too heavy to lift even by itself, restricted access and activities for the Bismarck boy and his family.

“The manual wheelchair provides us much more mobility,” said his father, Greg. “We’re now able to go to places and events any other family would go.”

“GABR funding makes it possible for families to obtain everyday essential items or help pay for portions of therapy services insurance will not cover,” said Kevin Murphy, MD, a Sanford pediatric rehabilitation specialist. “While these children have unique needs, GABR funding unites them with a common goal of enhancing their lives while helping them live more independently.”

The Vetters learned about GABR funding through a cerebral palsy support group. They also received funds last year to purchase bathroom equipment, which has improved Jacob’s independence.

“Those involved with GABR are doing it to help their neighbors in western North Dakota,” Vetter said. “The atmosphere at the race is electric. It’s a real feel-good event done for the right reasons—the kids.”

The family has been involved in the race since they moved to Bismarck seven years ago, and American Bank Center,Vetter’s employer and a major sponsor, also has teams.

“GABR is that buffer that allows us to keep our heads above water,” said Karen Cicha, whose son John has cerebral palsy. “Many times, we have gone to a regular appointment and had a doctor or a therapist tell us we need a new piece of equipment that will cost thousands. You immediately wonder, ‘What are we going to do?’”

John Cicha, 14, has difficulty with muscle tone, coordination and speech. He relies on a laptop mounted to his wheelchair to communicate. Switches on his head rest allow him to select images and words on the screen. A computerized voice speaks for him.

The Mandan family first applied for funding when John was in kindergarten because insurance wouldn’t cover a tray for his wheelchair.

  Dr. Kevin Murphy
Murphy, MD

“I don’t know what we would have done through the years without GABR funding to help with major expenses,” she said.

GABR funds made it possible for John to receive a bicycle for his sixth birthday. “It was really exciting for both John and his twin brother to ride their bikes together,” Cicha said. “Our family was able to do something outside that could include him, rather than having him watch us from his wheelchair.”

An electric bed furnished by GABR allows Cicha and other caregivers to more easily provide therapy and tube feedings. It also allows John, an avid movie fan, to watch television from a comfortable position.

Cicha volunteers at the GABR registration desk, and John’s siblings, David and Emily, are committed to riding every year.

Cicha, like Vetter, encourages families to take advantage of funding opportunities through GABR.

“GABR is about wonderful family and friends coming together to create this fund,” Cicha said. “All parents of children with cerebral palsy should think of it as their own family and friends putting money aside just for them. It’s as if all the people who would like to do something really nice for you have done just that.”

Click here for more information on Sanford Rehabilitation Center or call (701) 323-6097.

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