Minnesota Hospital Association


January 23, 2018

Adaptive Technology and Sports Fund at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare helps children gain mobility

Every individual, no matter their ability level, deserves to experience independence, freedom and the ability to communicate. However, for some children, complex medical conditions – and the mobility issues they can create – present challenges.   

Recognizing this, Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare developed an Adaptive Technology and Sports Fund in 2015. Gillette is an independent, specialty care hospital that serves children and adults who have complex musculoskeletal and neurological conditions, like cerebral palsy, spina bifida and traumatic brain injuries. Besides mobility problems, these conditions can result in abnormal muscle tone and issues maintaining balance.   

Although adaptive equipment exists, it comes at a price that is unattainable for many families. An adapted bicycle, for example, costs between $1,000 and $5,000 or more. An iPad equipped with technology to help a nonverbal child communicate can cost upwards of $2,500. The benefits, however, can’t be understated. There are physical benefits, certainly: riding a bike helps children by keeping muscles active and by improving strength and coordination. There are social and emotional advantages to adaptive bikes and technology, too, like the ability to engage with peers in the classroom or enjoy a family bike ride.   

Gillette raises money to support the Adaptive Technology and Sports Fund by holding annual fundraising events such as Pedal in Place (a stationary bike race during which teams fundraise to participate), Walk and Roll (a family-friendly walk around St. Paul’s Como Park) and the Friends of Gillette holiday gala. Grants are given throughout the year and any Gillette family may apply. Eligibility is need-based, with generous income guidelines that allow the majority of applying families to qualify. During 2017, Gillette granted 50 families funds toward bikes, computers or other equipment with funds totaling $114,611.    

The Adaptive Technology and Sports Fund is supported by a team of 10 to 15 individuals who review applications and determine qualifying families each year. The team also holds an annual Adapted Bike Expo, an opportunity for families to test-ride bikes and identify which type of bike best meets their child’s needs.   

Gavin Valentine, 5, is one of the 50 Gillette patients to receive a grant from the Adaptive Technology and Sports Fund in 2017. Gavin has cerebral palsy and needs a special bike with a seatbelt to provide support for his body and “sandal pedals” so his feet can be strapped in, as well as customized handle bars and a braking system.   

“Gavin has an older brother who rides his bike all the time,” said his mom, Crescence Valentine. “Gavin looks up to his big brother and wants to ride bikes with him. We received the letter stating Gavin will receive a full grant for his bike and we were both so happy we cried!”