October 17, 2011
Late on a Friday afternoon.
In the middle of summer.
What struck me most from the outset: It wasn’t anything like a typical query we receive:
Hello, my name is Brianna with Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and I was referred to you from Little People of America. Our next family that we are building a home for has a daughter who is a little person. We would love to provide her with a bike, and were told you are just the people we need to be in touch with! I would love discuss this with you further.
If you’re anything like me, you paused, and re-read the first 10 words.
Over and over and over.
My first inclination was to listen to the side of my brain screaming PRANK! Call it a survival reaction of growing up with three brothers.
Next I started my brain list of possible pranksters — yes, my brothers at the top — while I decided to indulge this person if, for no other reason, out of sheer respect for the originality of the prank.
The last thing I wanted to do was start spreading the word, if my suspicions were correct.
But only a few minutes later, Brianna responded with another email (don’t ask me why I considered it proof of authenticity, but I did).
That’s when reality hit.
Whoa, cool. Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Love the concept. Helping people. A perfect match for us.
If there is one thing I love about working at Bike Friday, it’s the heart of this company. The core desire to do good things. To do the right thing. Making a bicycle for a child, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Reality hit in a few other ways, too.
The child was 5-years-old, with achondroplasia. That’s pretty young for any child to have a bike.
The first serious discussion with Co-Founder Alan Scholz centered around finding out a little more about the situation. All we knew is that the family lived somewhere in New York state. Would it be prudent to build a bike for a 5-year-old who lives in the city? Would that be too dangerous?
Brianna quickly got back to us that it was more of a rural setting, with a neighborhood, lots of land, and lots of farms, where other kids were riding bikes. Hailey just wanted to join in.
That issue solved, we moved forward.
27 days and counting … down
Another fact jumped out. We would have less than a month to build a bike and deliver it. In the middle of the busy summer season.
The next questions that needed to be answered were simple: Can we build a Bike Friday for her? And, can we do it in time?
The answer to the most important question proved to be more than a guess than anything. We didn’t have any measurements to give us confidence one way or another. What we needed most was Hailey’s inseam measurement.
Walter Lapchynski, our Bike Consultant who has attended the Little People of America Convention in the past and worked with many Little People to build Bantam Bike Fridays for them, figured we could do it. Although, he added, the youngest Little Person we’ve ever built a bike for was 8 years old.
There was a moment of silence when everyone considered that. Without question, this would be a very small bike. In all likelihood, the smallest we’ve ever built.
Rob English, our Head Designer, has built custom bikes for kids before. Ideas immediately spun around in his head. But really, he couldn’t do anything definitive until he had some measurements. Well, he couldn’t do anything other than say, OK, he’ll give it a shot. Have a nice weekend everyone.
24 days and counting
That’s where the really tricky part came into play. The Producers of the show receive some information up front, but not necessarily everything.
By the end of Monday, we had some preliminary measurements for each member of the family: Shoulder to wrist; Hip to floor; Shoulder to waist and waist. Good information, but no inseam.
A day later we received height measurements.
Along the way, Brianna shared with us a direct quote from their application:
“… love to bike ride, and would appreciate new bikes for the family.”
Still not 100 percent certain that we’d be able to pull off building a bike for Hailey, we quickly decided to donate bikes for her Mother and Father. Her brother is an infant. The Solution? A Burley Trailer. Why not? The original was designed by Bike Friday Co-founder Alan Scholz, and Burley is still based in Oregon.
That got me to thinking about an Oregon package. Helmets are a must.
22 days and counting …
So I put Brianna in contact with Burley and Nutcase Helmets, a Portland-based company. Maybe we could put together an Oregon package.
16 days and counting …
Still no inseam measurement, making everyone very nervous. But we received more information on Mom and Dad’s size, so we knew we could get them bikes.
11 days and counting …
Finally! An inseam measurement. 11 inches! Whoa, that’s small. At least Rob can get to work on it.
10 days and counting …
We learn Hailey’s favorite colors are green, yellow and pink. Sounds like she’s a University of Oregon Duck fan. Perfect.
8 days and counting …
I’ve seen the design. Wow. That’s a small bike.
6 days and counting …
Pieces. Small pieces.
3 days and counting …
Time to get it powder coated.
1 day and counting …
Final adjustments. Test ride. We got it shipped in time.
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