Like any other six-year-old boy, Roy Cook of Ashland wanted to learn to ride a bike.

But because Roy was born with a condition called spina bifida, meaning that Roy’s spinal cord and meninges didn’t form properly, Roy relied solely on a wheelchair for mobility.

Roy’s father, Jake, says he would take Roy to Wal-Mart and Roy would see the bikes—and Jake would have to tell him that he couldn’t get one.

“He’d ask ‘why?’ and I’d tell him, ‘’cause your legs don’t work, Roy.’”

That all changed Friday, April 15 when Northland College faculty and students presented a handcycle to Roy and his family, and Roy was able to ride it around the parking lot at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor’s center.

More than a dozen people were in attendance at the official presentation, including Roy’s mother, father, and grandparents. Everyone was excited to see Roy ride his new handcycle.

“The project truly was a community effort,” said Cindy Dillenschneider, outdoor education professor at Northland College. “Made possible only through the contributions of many different people, organizations, and businesses.”

Handcycles, which have three wheels and are propelled by users’ arms, exist but are prohibitively expensive, Dillenschneider said.

Dillenschneider heard about Roy and knew the College could help the Cook family.

Dillenschneider and Betsey Harries, Northland’s sustainability coordinator, rallied a group of students to help design and construct a handcycle for Roy.

Seniors Lynn Dohrmann and Zeke Roth-Reynolds, junior Stuart Schmidt, and sophomore Olivia Garceau comprised the “Adaptive Bike Team.”

The team struck gold at the start when Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Duluth donated an older, adult-sized handcycle.

The team then met with the physical and occupational therapists from Roy’s school to figure out what kind of modifications would have to be made in order to accommodate Roy.

With Jake’s welding skills, the bike was modified so that it fit Roy.

The primary goal was to provide Roy with a handcycle, but the larger objective was to build relationships and foster community connection. “We hoped to give Roy a greater sense of independence and to build on a blueprint for effective community engagement on behalf of the college,” Schmitt said.

In addition to the contribution from Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, Bay City Cycles provided new tires for the handcycle at a discounted price, paid for by the Northland College Sustainability Department and Fast Lane Motor Sports shop provided space and materials for the modifications that had to be made to the handcycle.

The adaptive bike succeeded on all accounts. “Roy was quick to tell everyone about his ambitious plans to ride it home,” said Schmidt.