Editor’s Note: After complications at birth, Jacoby Zebinski was diagnosed with quadriplegic spastic cerebral palsy. Today, at six years old, his condition prevents him from walking independently. However, it doesn’t stop him from enjoying life’s pleasures such as watching sports, being outdoors, and spending time with his family. When he first tested an adaptive bike by Freedom Concepts at the age of four, he pedaled off like a natural. Since then, he has been relishing the wind on his face, the liberating feeling in his legs, and making lifelong memories with his parents and twin sister. Jacoby’s mother, Vanessa Zebinski, talked to Wheel:Life about his bike and the positive impact it has had on him and the whole family.
I didn’t think Jacoby would ever be able to ride a bike because he doesn't have the balance. We hadn't looked into anything like that for him because we didn't know where to start. When we found out about Freedom Concepts, I reached out to them, and they came to Jacoby's daycare with a sample bike they thought would be useful to him. When they put him on the bike to try it out, he just took off. He kicks a lot, to begin with, because of the spasticity, but he got on that bike, and he was gone.
They measured him up so they could adapt the bike specifically to his needs and asked him what color he’d like.
He picked blue. They gave us some options such as being able to steer him, different braking mechanisms, and the ability to turn off his pedals if he gets tired. If he's having a rough day and wants to get outside but doesn't want to pedal, I can turn off the resistance and steer him. He can still do the pedaling motion, but it's not as difficult. It's like pedaling without a chain. He's got handlebars that move up and down, so getting him on and off the bike is a breeze. He has foot straps to keep his feet in place, and the seat is comfortable for him. He’s got straps across his chest and waist and a butterfly harness over his chest, so he's very well-secured.
Jacoby has had his bike since 2016. Freedom Concepts figures he'll be able to get five to six years, maybe even more, out of it. We got our bike donated by Children's Rehabilitation Foundation, but if you were going to spend money on it, it's definitely worth it. The bike has been a godsend. Jacoby just takes off on it, and away he goes. It helps him with his rehabilitation in terms of therapy by getting his legs going.
We also have a Chill-Out Chair by Freedom Concepts. It's made so that someone can sit without falling over. Jacoby has a little bit of a balance issue, so when sitting on the couch or a chair, he tends to lean and fall over. The Chill-Out Chair gives him the ability to just sit back and relax and not feel so much pressure to work his muscles to stay balanced. We keep his chair in the living room so he can watch TV or play video games. We have a tray that goes over the top, so he can also eat a meal while in it. It's very portable; we can take it down to grandma and grandpa's or over to a friend's house. It just gives him more options for sitting.
Like the bike, this is another product that gives him the option of not having to sit in his wheelchair all the time.
The version we have has wheels so I can roll him from room to room if needed. It's got an ottoman, too, so he can put his legs straight out if he doesn't want to let them hang. It's a good product for people who just want to chill out. It's really the best name for the chair. It's literally like you're sitting in a bucket seat, and you're just chilled. I could sit in it and fall asleep.
We really connected with the people at Freedom Concepts. There are other adaptive bike companies out there, but they just seemed to be the right fit for us. Their products are well-built, and we love being able to support a business located in Winnipeg, which is local to us.
Freedom Concepts wants to see the best for children that can't do everything that "able-bodied" kids can do.
Often, children with disabilities get used equipment or, if they are able to get new equipment, it's a struggle. As a parent, you learn to accept what you get and not get upset about it. So, it's really heartwarming to see what Freedom Concepts does. If I tell them Jacoby is really into baseball, they’ll put a baseball decoration on his bike. They find out the details and go above and beyond to make sure a child is taken care of. It's just amazing. Freedom Concepts has taken us under their wing and made us part of their family.
"Jacoby has done so well on his bike. Every time we see him riding it, he's grinning from ear to ear. It's moments like this that make us go above and beyond for families that inquire about one of our bikes." -Harley Hudon, Marketing Manager
Being able to ride bikes as a family gives us a sense of normalcy. We're all out doing the same thing. We all get to go out together, and Jacoby is not sitting in a wheelchair or a stroller. He gets to do the same thing his twin sister is doing. I think that's important because children with disabilities may not know why they have a disability, but they just want to do the things that other kids do. We want Jacoby to embrace that he can go for a bike ride any time he wants with his sister or us, or whoever, and not have to think about having a disability. For me, I want him to have the same thing that any other child has, and why shouldn't he? As a parent, you want everything to be perfect for your kids. You want them to have everything they need to get by. He already has a disability preventing him from walking. He can't go play soccer or baseball, so let's give him an activity that we can do as a family. Every child should have the ability to go ride a bike whether they can use a traditional bike or not. Let’s give them that childhood freedom, that childhood thrill.
Reach out to your local cerebral palsy association and other organizations. Also, there are many support groups on Facebook where people share their ideas. It's okay to be scared because every day is different. You've got a big support group around you that is there to help.
Once you're a parent of a child with a disability, things change, and you learn quickly what the world is like.
But, there is a whole other world of kindness, love, and support that you never knew about. Be an advocate for your child, and don't give up. Keep trying to get the needs of your child met.
“The Zebinski's have been so wonderful to work with, and we consider them a part of our Freedom Concepts family. It means the world to us that Jacoby is able to ride his bike alongside his sister and with his family. This is what the cycle of mobility is all about to us, and we are working hard to share that with as many families and children as possible."
-Harley Hudon, Marketing Manager
Editor’s Note: If you or your child could benefit from an adaptive bike, get in touch with Freedom Concepts at 1-800-661-9915. Product details can be found at FreedomConcepts.com. Follow Freedom Concepts on social media:
Betsy Bailey has a diverse background including experience in marketing research at American Express, business operations and client relations with 601am, travel and culinary writing with VegDining, and playing volleyball professionally overseas.
Betsy is excited to get back into writing, something she’s adored since childhood, and thoroughly enjoys the process of getting to know her interviewees. On top of her work with Wheel:Life, she also teaches students learning English as a second language, speaks French fluently, and travels any chance she gets!