Written by Lauren Lichtenauer
Riding a bike is fun, exciting, inspiring, and even life changing. Christopher’s Promise is a grassroots organization that aims to navigate families through the grant process of getting an adaptive bicycle. They work by collaborating community resources and relationships to make this the ultimate experience for children with physical disabilities. KEEN has supported the organization from the beginning by providing kids with shoes that make their feet smile, while fitting over their ankle braces.
For a kid, a bicycle is more than pedals and tires. It is a pivotal childhood experience. Christopher, a 16-year-old that struggles with Cerebral Palsy and a rare tumor disorder that takes root in his brain, wasn’t able to ride a traditional bike safely. After teaming up with KEEN Ambassador, Lauren Lichtenauer, the founder of Christopher’s Promise — the program was born and a promise was made. Christopher was a former camper of Lauren’s and when they crossed paths nearly 5 years later, the need for a bike was mentioned – little did they know it would lead to a grassroots initiative in Christopher’s name. Lauren continues to lead the program and wouldn’t have it any other way. An avid cyclist herself, she understands the freedom of two wheels and can still remember the countless days of riding her first bike with her twin sister. “Christopher’s Promise is a result of kind fate, compassion, and a chance to work together to do the right thing. These kids already go above and beyond to be like their peers. All of our partners have one goal in mind: to help kids, be kids. Christopher was my ‘life-changer’. He taught me a lesson in gratitude and provided me with a perspective I will have for the rest of my life. The ability to further our mission would not be possible without the support of our partners and is truly the most magical part of this program”.
The momentum of Christopher’s Promise recently expanded to Rhode Island. Andrew, 14, was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative disease called Ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) when he was almost 4 years old. A-T combines the worst symptoms of Cerebral Palsy, Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy, cancer, and immune deficiencies. Children with A-T are usually in wheelchairs by the age of 10; most will get G-tubes for nutrition and have slurred speech and difficulty reading. There is no treatment of cure for A-T, although there have been great strides made in managing the symptoms in an effort to keep the children as healthy as possible.
Andrew loves sports and loves to be outside. He has been very lucky and is healthy thus far. Unfortunately, like many A-T kids, he has had difficulty with tremors and fatigue. We have tried to find things that can be adapted, so Andrew can actively participate in them. He regularly participates in adaptive skiing, sailing, tennis, golf, hypo therapy, and now – cycling! Andrew loves the water, staying in the pool for hours at a time: shooting hoops with a pool basketball hoop. He is also an avid KEEN footwear fan! The pool can be rough on his feet; Andrew wears them in and out of the water! His feet look like they have tiger stripes on them by the second week of the summer from the sun getting between the KEEN straps.
Andrew has an amazing attitude! No matter how many doctor’s appointments he has, or how tired he gets, he never complains. He is always positive and loves to be around his friends and family. On days when he is exhausted, he’s happy to sit and be in everyone’s company even if he is too tired to participate.
Just a few weeks ago, Andrew received a bicycle through Christopher’s Promise. A shiny red bike outfitted with a bright orange flag, fenders, and a license plate that read, “2Fast4U.” Andrew’s smile was almost permanent as he rode up and down the street, surrounded by friends and family. “It is in these very small moments when all the hard-work pays off. The smiles are heartwarming – and each time, I’m reminded of the need to keep doing this.”
The “promise” continues to spread as a result of incredibly generous supporters and extremely deserving children who dream of experiencing a childhood similar to their peers. To date, Christopher’s Promise has helped over 35 children in the Columbus area and continues to thrive as a grassroots initiative. Please help us spread the word! Look us up – Ask how you can help! Please FOLLOW us on Facebook and learn more at: christopherspromise.org