BOUNTIFUL CITY, UTAH, MAY 18—At a park in Bountiful City, amid clapping and cheers of encouragement, a young boy aided by prosthetics and braced by his father rose from his wheelchair and shakily walked across a stage to hand over cash “for the children” to a radio disc jockey who choked up, saying, “You rock, man! You can walk. You can run.”
When grown men are crying (along with everyone else), you know that a motorcycle ride for children was dubbed a success. “Those three minutes were worth all this work,” said Tim Gallagher, general manager of Wright’s Motorcycle Parts & Accessories, in reference to the walk by 8-year-old Jonah Bradshaw. Wright’s, a family-owned shop for more than 40 years, hosts the annual Utah Kids Ride and gives 100 percent of proceeds to Shriners Hospitals for Children, a world-renowned pediatric specialty hospital.
It’s a ride that is as ubiquitous as the El Kalah Shriners maroon fez and mini-motorbikes! “This is an event that continues to grow,” said Mike Babcock, director of public relations for Salt Lake City’s “hospital on the hill.” “The Utah hospital serves seven Western states and northern Mexico, and care ranges from orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate [reconstruction],” added Babcock.
Infants and children up to age 18 can expect top-notch treatment and care that is fully funded with no financial burden to families, largely due to charitable donations. Jonah is a typical Shriners recipient who is receiving treatment, learning coping strategies and making friends at the hospital. And his parents, Tommy and Karen Bradshaw of Saratoga Springs, won’t have to pay a dime. “It’s a blessing,” said Tommy. “Shriners are amazing! In addition to Jonah’s surgeries, they take care of upgrades and maintenance [to the wheelchairs].”
Jonah was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a genetic condition that causes joints to stiffen, as well as abnormal muscle development. When Jonah was born, his feet and legs were criss-crossed behind his body like a pretzel, said Tommy. “Jo-Jo [as Jonah is affectionately called] had his first of four surgeries at 3 months old to correct club feet and to straighten his legs,” said Karen.
Every two weeks for five months, he endured the first of two painful serial castings, which involved manipulating the legs and clubfeet to straighten them a little at a time, casting them in place, waiting for a period of time, decasting to adjust the leg and feet again, then repeating the procedure once more, according to Karen. When Jonah was in kindergarten, the second set of casting occurred every two weeks for six weeks on his feet and ankles. Surgery number three was to straighten the knees.
“A chunk of the femur was taken out and hardware was put inside his legs to hold them together and to be straightened,” recalled Karen. “This past January, a fourth surgery was done to take out the hardware and be fitted with leg braces to support him in a vertical position and to keep him from crumbling,” said Karen. “Jo-Jo calls his braces his magic legs!” A week later, Jonah stood for the first time. And a week after that, Jonah walked for the first time.
He just completed third grade at Harvest Elementary School and is looking forward to spending summer with his siblings, Savannah and Corbin. And maybe go to Lagoon, a local amusement park. He loves anything and everything about transportation—cars, trains, planes and now, motorcycles! He loves to draw, put together jigsaw puzzles, eat macaroni and cheese (his favorite food) and attend Primary, a church program for children. This shy, blue-eyed boy still relies on a red (his favorite color) wheelchair to maneuver around, which came in handy for today’s motorcycle ride.
Stickers from his favorite movie, Cars, adorned his wheelchair as he zipped around Wright’s parking lot posing for photos with cops from nine jurisdictions, firefighters from South Salt Lake Fire Station No. 42 and the Shriners.
Johnny Marcusen, 76, from West Jordan, was awaiting the call to get on his 1990 Harley-Davidson FXRS. “It’s good to get together with all the people who ride. Shriners have contributed to so many children through what I call the bikers network,” explained Marcusen. “I enjoy the camaraderie with all the riders.”
Decked out in leathers, Joel Meza, also from West Jordan, has been associated with the Shriners fraternity for 17 years. “No one gets the warm fuzzies like we do at this moment,” Meza laughed.
Just before the 10:00 a.m. signal, Babcock took to the stage to bestow the Gallagher family an award and a place in the Gold Book Society, an elite group made up of major donors. Pat Gallagher, matriarch of the clan, became emotional, “This brings lots of tears to my eyes. Thank you so much!” And with that, a “You guys ready to ride?” blared from the speakers as the sound of motorcycles revved up.
The Shriners Hospitals for Children’s logo states: “Love to the Rescue.” And that couldn’t have been more evident as nearly 500 bikers took to the streets of nearby canyons and towns before socializing at Bountiful Park where Tim Gallagher noted that a generous $18,000 will be donated to the “hospital on the hill.”
For information, visit www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/saltlakecity, or call 801.536.3500.