Like most kids, Matthew Vaccaro will spend a big part of his summer vacation cruising around on his bike. It’s a favorite summertime activity of children all across America, right along with watching fireworks and listening for the ice cream truck. But riding his own tricycle was anything but a sure thing for Matthew, a five-year-old from Island Park, until a charity organization called Share the Voice teamed up with Girl Scout Troop 1343 of Franklin Square to make it happen.
Matthew, who has Down syndrome and has arms and legs shorter than a typical child , did not have a tricycle that he could ride safely. His mother, Debra Vaccaro, heard from a friend about Share the Voice, an organization founded by Lynda Graham that had helped other families raise money for adaptive bikes. Vaccaro filled out some forms on the organization’s Facebook page in early April and then all but forgot about it. She was never notified that her application had been accepted, but on June 25 she got a call from Graham, who told her she needed some additional forms filled out and asked if she could drop by at 6 p.m.
Graham did not come alone. At 6 o’clock, Graham and Troop 1343 marched down Matthew’s street, chanting his name. They brought a blue Rifton tricycle with pedals and handlebars that Matthew could reach more easily. It had a MATTHEW nameplate adorned with a skull and crossbones, and a red, white and blue bow. In other words, it was a tricycle made just for Matthew.
“There were about 30 people walking down my block in parade fashion,” Vaccaro said. “That’s how they presented Matthew with the bicycle that they raised the money for. I felt like we won the Publisher’s Clearing House.”
Graham co-founded Share the Voice in April 2013 after seeing the therapeutic benefits of riding a tricycle had on her disabled son and other children.
“Recreational use of adaptive tricycles brings many rewards,” Graham said. “It builds self-esteem and confidence, provides stress relief, increases social skills, strengthens weak muscles and stretches tight ones, and increases balance and gross motor skills. Owning a tricycle helps physically and cognitively challenged children become more independent and gives them the ability to socialize with typical children in their neighborhood. It gives them an outlet to be just like the other kids.”
Besides, Graham said, “Riding a bike is a rite of passage.”
Share the Voice, which is funded by donations, provided seven adaptive tricycles in its first 14 months of operation. It will provide six such tricycles in June and July, Graham said.
A big reason for that is the involvement of Troop 1343. Share the Voice made a visited the troop in November, and the Scouts immediately started thinking of ways they could help the cause. In May, they held a bike-a-thon in the hopes of raising enough money to fund one tricycle. Through the generosity of the community, they earned enough for three. Matthew’s name was at the top of Share the Voice’s waiting list.
The Vaccaros were shocked when Graham and the contingent of Scouts showed up at their door. Debra Vaccaro was visibly moved. Matthew smiled wide.
“As a mom, I put myself in her shoes,” Troop 1343 leader Jennifer Camacho said of Debra Vaccaro. “I hope the bike brings her son joy and relief.”
Matthew rode his tricycle, a tricycle made just for him, for the first time over the weekend