'This Is Therapy': Couple Fashions Tricycles for Children With Disabilities

For 15 years, married pair have fixed up 900 bikes using donated funds.

ByABC News
August 11, 2011, 8:46 AM

Aug. 19, 2011 — -- Francesca "Frankie" Robertson will tell anyone who asks that she is the fastest girl on a tricycle.

She is certainly the happiest. As she barrels down the sidewalk after her older brothers, her blue eyes sparkle beneath the rabbit ears on her bright-pink bunny bicycle helmet. The 4-year-old's laughter echoes through the neighborhood. She is truly on a joy ride.

This may be a typical scene for most children, but for Frankie, it is miraculous. Just four years ago -- at birth -- she weighed only 1 pound, 10 ounces. She was so small, her father's wedding ring fit around her forearm.

"She has cerebral palsy," Frankie's mother, Dana Robertson, said. "She's quadriplegic so she didn't have the strength in her legs."

Years of therapy helped Frankie slowly gain function in her arms and legs. Five months ago, she had trouble running and playing with her older brothers. But everything changed once she got her new red tricycle.

"She glides through her movements, and I put all that on the bike," Dana Robertson said. "The bike has given that to her."

The bike was a gift from Connie and Gordon Hankins. The Naperville, Ill., retirees, who have grandchildren of their own, are on a mission. In their basement workshop, they transform tricycles, adding high seat backs with seat belts, custom handlebars and Velcro foot clips so that children with disabilities can ride.

"This is not just a toy," Gordon Hankins said. "It builds strength they need, and then they get that confidence [that] they can do other things."

Connie Hankins is a retired nurse; her husband, a retired telecommunications worker. Together, they now run the Therapy Oriented Tricycle TOT project. Since 1999, they've given away more than 900 free bikes to children nationwide.