Young people at a church in Waveland, Mississippi, recently raised $1,350 in order to provide therapeutic tricycles for two children who are disabled. The children have been on a waiting list to get an “Amtryke” for over a year, and now, thanks to the generosity of others, they can experience an activity that is a normal part of growing up for most kids.
“I want to thank these children for their generosity and their sunshine in their heart to help these people,” said Hewitt Wheless with emotion as he received the check from the church. “I, my club, all of the AMBUCS across the United States are extremely grateful for this donation. Y’all just don’t know what it means.”
Getting an Amtryke
For almost a year, children with St. Clare Catholic Church have saved their money to donate to AMBUCS, an organization that helps people who have disabilities. Founded in 1922, AMBUCS started giving away therapeutic tricycles in the mid-1990s. The tricycles are called “Amtrykes” after the company that makes them (which AMBUCS owns). According to its website, AMBUCS currently has over 5,000 members and gives away about 3,500 tricycles annually.
The Amtrykes, which were given to a 12-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, help children to improve coordination, muscle tone, and strength and can be modified as the kids grow. Wheless says that AMBUCS, whose goal is to create “independence and mobility for people with disabilities,” provides the Amtrykes to people of any age and that the project has “gotten so big, we’re now worldwide with it.”
Speaking to GulfLive.com a few years ago, Wheless pointed out that providing Amtrykes is just one way AMBUCS serves people who are disabled. He said, “We build wheelchair ramps for handicap [sic] people, we have two colleges we support in East Texas, we support the Wounded Warrior Project, and we are able to complete these projects strictly off of fundraisers we hold.” At that time, Wheless had just delivered an Amtryke to a 10-year-old boy who had cerebral palsy.
St. Clare has just celebrated its centennial, and Father Jacob Matthew Smith says that the children’s generosity is an encouraging sign for the church’s future: “This is a way of beginning our next 100 years with an act of charity, of being able to reach out to somebody they’ve never met and provide them with something that will give them a little bit better chance at life, at movement and getting around and finding the spirit of life.”
You can watch a Facebook video here of Wheless officially receiving the funds from St. Clare. One woman who saw the post commented, “[I’m] so proud to be a member of this church and to have my grandchildren participate in this type of giving. Teaching them so much.” Another said, “Proud moment today to see our kids giving back to this amazing group! I hope we continue this as a tradition.”