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