Kennedy: Two-year-old Signal Mountain boy gets special bike

Jacob Phipps / Contributed photo
photo Jacob Phipps / Contributed photo

It's every kid's dream to ride a tricycle or a bicycle.

But for some children with limited mobility due to cerebral palsy, fulfilling that dream is not automatic.

Two-year-old Jacob Phipps of Signal Mountain was born prematurely and struggles with weak muscles due to cerebral palsy.

"A lot of his weakness is in his core," explained Sorrell Phipps, Jacob's mom. "He can't sit up on his own. No crawling or walking."

Still, Jacob has the same hunger for motion and play that other kids do.

His active parents had struggled to find a stroller with wheels that could stand up to their outdoors lifestyle. Thankfully, technology can help bridge the gap.

Late last week, Jake's family received a customized, off-road capable adaptive trike gifted to them by Catholic Charities of East Tennessee through funds made available from the James Wallace West Estate.

The bike is made by Las Vegas, Nevada-based Freedom Concepts, which specifically designs bikes for kids and adults with conditions that weaken their muscles. The bikes, which are equipped with tons of safety features, are said to improve a rider's range of motion, blood circulation and muscle strength.

"Each bike is built to the person and their special needs, taking leg length, trunk support, and type of disability into consideration," the company's website states.

The bike hand-off on Signal Mountain happened last Thursday, and within hours Jacob was moving along in his new $5,000 bike and registering his excitement with giggles.

"Jake loves his bike," said his mom. "He was confused at first while we strapped him in, but as soon as he started moving, he was giggling as much as ever."

Phipps, who works for Unum, said she and her husband, Eric, a construction worker, were grateful for the bike, which was custom built to fit Jacob's body and can be adjusted as he gets older.

She explained that Jacob was born prematurely, at 27 weeks, and his underdeveloped lungs caused him to be oxygen deprived, contributing to his condition.

"He spent five and half months in the ICU," Phipps said. "That was beyond hard. It was the hardest thing we've ever had to go though."

These days, Jake attends the Siskin Early Learning Center downtown, where he receives physical therapy. Besides his cerebral palsy, which is a lifelong condition, he is otherwise healthy, his mom said.

He loves going to school, which seems to lift his spirits, Phipps said.

"It's absolutely the best place," she said. "When we pick him up he's chatty. He loves it."

She said the new tricycle will open new possibilities for family outings.

"We haven't been able to imagine a day when Jake would ride a bike before, but now, it's a reality and just in time for summer. We are so excited!

"I think it will definitely make him happy. It will help him to adapt. Make him feel more independent."

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