Michael Holton couldn’t be happier about the new set of wheels he received just in time for his high school graduation.
Michael, 19, who was born with Down syndrome, received a specially-designed, three-wheeled bicycle Friday from the Savannah AMBUCS chapter. Because of his genetic disorder, Holton lacks the coordination and balance to ride a regular bike.
“All kids like a bike, so now he has one finally that he can ride,” said Michael’s mother, Amy Holton. “It’s exciting because it gives him a little bit more freedom.”
AMBUCS surprised Holton with the bicycle Friday at Effingham Health System, where he interns in the Project SEARCH program. He walked out to the hospital’s courtyard and was greeted by several hospital staff members and his fellow Project SEARCH students.
“I told Michael, I didn’t know he had so many friends,” joked Savannah AMBUCS president Kevin Sheehan.
When Holton realized why everyone was gathered, his face lit up and he gave Sheehan a big hug. He rode a lap around the courtyard on the bicycle as the crowd applauded.
Holton said of his new bike, “It’s good, man! I like it!”
The Holton family lives in a subdivision in Guyton, and Amy said, “He can ride all over the neighborhood.”
When Amy met Sheehan recently at a Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society meeting, she asked if her son could receive one of the bicycles. AMBUCS had funding available and ordered the bike in time for Michael to get it prior to his graduation this Friday from South Effingham High School.
“His mother said it would be great if he could get it before school got out. It’s kind of like a graduation gift,” Sheehan said.
AMBUCS hosts fundraisers and accepts donations to buy bicycles for children and adults. Sheehan said the Savannah chapter will give more than 40 bikes this year — and each one is a special occasion.
“It’s very heartwarming,” Sheehan said. “You see the child’s face change, and you know that you’ve had an impact on a life.”
However, Sheehan said, it’s not just the recipient of the bike who benefits. He recalled a conversation he had last year with a parent who told him a donated bicycle from AMBUCS changed not just the child’s life, but the entire family’s.
“The child gets better, their attitude improves, and the family can get out and ride bikes,” Sheehan said. “Nobody is stuck in the house. It’s a family activity and it improves them not just physically, but emotionally and mentally.”
Holton was beaming already after taking just one lap around the hospital courtyard. He plans to ride the bike as often as he can — when he isn’t busy working at the hospital in Project SEARCH, a nationwide program to provide internships for people with developmental disabilities and train them in entry-level positions.
Michael is wrapping up his first 10-week rotation in Project SEARCH. He will return to Effingham Health in August to begin the final two rotations to complete the program.
“Because he’s graduating this year, everybody kept asking me, ‘What’s he doing next year?’” Amy said. “And I kept saying, ‘I don’t know.’ So this came at the perfect, perfect time for us.”
The Project SEARCH internship and his new bicycle from AMBUCS have added to an already big senior year for Michael. He was crowned South Effingham’s homecoming king in October, and he danced in the student talent show in March.
“He has had a great year,” Amy said with a smile.
About the AMBUCS
For more information about AMBUCS’ therapeutic bicycle program, contact Savannah chapter president Kevin Sheehan at (912) 658-3739 or Kev62@comcast.net.