Ted ready to roll

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Front Page - BY COLIN MACGIL­LIVRAY

For many of us, rid­ing a bi­cy­cle for the first time is an in­deli­ble hall­mark of child­hood – a fondly re­mem­bered rite of pas­sage. As we shed our train­ing wheels and ven­tured into the streets, fur­ther from home and the watch­ful eyes of our par­ents, a bur­geon­ing sense of ad­ven­ture took hold. We could go any­where and do any­thing. The world was our oys­ter. That feel­ing of free­dom is some­thing nine-year-old Ted John­son is yet to ex­pe­ri­ence. The Hor­sham Ss Michael and John’s Pri­mary School stu­dent was born with a rare con­gen­i­tal con­di­tion known as bi­lat­eral tib­ial hemimelia, mean­ing he had no knees, shins or an­kles. He had both legs am­pu­tated and has grown up walk­ing on a se­ries of pros­thetic legs. His pros­thet­ics have been enough to al­low him to lead a mostly nor­mal, func­tional life. His mother, Ab­bie Clark, said while ep­i­thets such as ‘brave’ are of­ten used to de­scribe young am­putees, a more apt one for Ted might be ‘non­cha­lant’. “Ted is a re­ally chilled sort of a kid,” she said. “We don’t re­ally even take the fact he doesn’t have his legs into ac­count. “He just puts his legs on in­stead of shoes in the morn­ing and that’s all the dif­fer­ence we feel from any other fam­ily.” There is one thing Ted’s pros­thet­ics will not al­low him to do, how­ever – ride a bike. Ms Clark said de­spite Ted hav­ing wanted one ‘for­ever’, the fam­ily was un­able to find a bi­cy­cle that fit­ted his needs. “When he was lit­tle we had one that we pushed along, and my dad built one about 12 months ago. But the prob­lem was try­ing to get the gear­ing cor­rect so he could ac­tu­ally pedal it,” she said. Ms Clark turned to the in­ter­net to find a so­lu­tion and spent months re­search­ing spe­cial hand-ped­aled bikes from over­seas. There was one prob­lem – the design she set­tled on cost $11,000 and was man­u­fac­tured in Poland. With a spe­cial bike cost­ing more than the fam­ily could af­ford, Ms Clark be­gan to look for dif­fer­ent ways to raise money.

“Any­one can go down to Kmart and get a bike for $100, but I’m not ever go­ing to be able to buy a bike for $11,000 with­out some kind of help,” she said.

“We talked about it and we tried through the Na­tional Dis­abil­ity In­sur­ance Scheme, and it was a lit­tle bit more dif­fi­cult than I thought.

“We’d got some fund­ing through the NDIS, but it was al­lo­cated a bit dif­fer­ently to how we would have liked it to be.”

Ms Clark be­gan to think she was out of op­tions, but Ss Michael and John’s teacher Louise Ch­ester­field thought oth­er­wise.

She con­vinced Ms Clark to turn to the school and the Hor­sham dis­trict com­mu­nity for aid.

Ms Clark said she was hes­i­tant, but even­tu­ally agreed.

On Fri­day last week the school posted a flyer on Facebook ad­ver­tis­ing a ‘Ten 4 Ted’ cam­paign.

It en­cour­aged Hor­sham dis­trict res­i­dents to make a do­na­tion, how­ever small, to­wards Ted’s new bike, with the idea that 1100 peo­ple do­nat­ing $10 each could meet the $11,000 tar­get.

Within hours the post had gar­nered hun­dreds of likes and shares, and do­na­tions had al­ready be­gun to flow into the school.

As of Tues­day af­ter­noon, the post had been shared about 400 times and nearly $10,000 had al­ready been do­nated to the school.

Ms Ch­ester­field said the re­ac­tion to the post had sur­passed any­thing she thought pos­si­ble.

“We’re so ex­cited. It’s been ab­so­lutely crazy and I’m blown away,” she said.

“I was a bit ner­vous putting it up there think­ing, ‘what if we can’t get it for him?’, but it looks like we will get there.”

Ms Clark said she was in awe of the generosity of strangers.

“I wasn’t sure about it, but I even­tu­ally said ‘let’s do it’, and when it went up on the web­site, how quickly peo­ple re­sponded was over­whelm­ing,” she said.

“I rang the school and I was teary be­cause it was over­whelm­ing to see how much peo­ple care.

“I couldn’t be­lieve it. In the world we live in th­ese days, it’s not very of­ten you’re made to feel that way.”

Ms Ch­ester­field said there had been do­na­tions from in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies and com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions across the Wim­mera and even in­ter­state.

She said the flood of do­na­tions re­flected the gen­er­ous spirit of Wim­mera peo­ple.

“We’re in­cred­i­bly grate­ful and thank­ful for ev­ery­one in the com­mu­nity who has taken the time to make a do­na­tion – it’s good for the heart and the soul,” she said. “In this day and age we of­ten get locked away in our own world, and I think this is a great ex­am­ple to re­mind us all, es­pe­cially lead­ing up to Christ­mas, that our com­mu­nity can take care of each other.”

With the do­na­tion tar­get for Ted’s bike nearly reached, the school said any ad­di­tional money re­ceived would be put into a fund to help his fam­ily pay for ad­di­tional pros­thetic legs, which they buy about once a year as Ted grows.

While the Ten 4 Ted cam­paign has gen­er­ated an out­pour­ing of emo­tion across the re­gion, Ms Clark said per­haps the calmest per­son in­volved was Ted him­self.

“He’s pretty ex­cited about it, but he’s just a nine-year-old,” she said. “He just says ‘yeah, it’ll be cool’. “With kids it’s like un­til the bike is ac­tu­ally there, it’s just a dream.”

It is one child­hood dream Ted should soon be able to re­alise.

• Peo­ple can do­nate to the Ten 4 Ted cam­paign in per­son at Ss Michael and John’s Pri­mary School of­fice at 7 Mclach­lan Street, Hor­sham, or by bank trans­fer us­ing BSB 063514 and ac­count num­ber 10078438, with the name SMJ and the ref­er­ence Ten 4 Ted.

SHOW OF SUP­PORT: Hor­sham young­ster Ted John­son, flanked by school-mates, will soon be rid­ing a spe­cial bi­cy­cle af­ter a gen­er­ous com­mu­nity money-rais­ing ef­fort.

Pic­ture: PAUL CAR­RACHER

GOOD MATES: Ted John­son with Hor­sham Ss Michael and John’s Pri­mary School friends from left, Liam Car­racher, Cooper My­ers and Jonty Blair.

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