For Julian Meza, a student at City Park School, being in a wheelchair means constantly learning new skills and strategies to adapt to his environment.
In a recent assembly, Julian was surprised with the gift of a lifetime as the Specially Gifted Foundation rolled out his custom adaptive bike.
A crowd of his classmates cheered with signs as the foundation representatives brought out the gift.
Julian's parents, Leslie and Juan Meza, watched through tears as they saw their son ride a bike for the first time.
The surprise was a collaboration between Julian's parents, Freedom Concepts Inc., the Specially Gifted Foundation, and City Park School.
Leslie Meza said an adaptive bike was recommended by Julian's physical therapist. After reaching out to a representative from Freedom Concepts, a company whose products provide mobility and therapeutic benefits to thousands of individuals, Meza began fundraising.
With her fundraising efforts, she was able to raise $2,000, but the cost of the adaptive bicycle was around $4,150.
"After a couple of months, we got a grant for half of the cost of the bike," Meza said. "We eventually reached out to the Specially Gifted Foundation, and they immediately replied saying they would come up with something. They chose us to be the Giving Tuesday family."
The Specially Gifted Foundation is dedicated to enriching the lives of families with disabilities by providing them with a special gift or opportunity, beneficial resources, and a sense of community.
The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the Specially Gifted Foundation raised more than what was required to purchase the bike.
Within 2 weeks of releasing the Giving Tuesday campaign, they raised $2,150 and granted Julian’s gift request.
"The community came together and helped us out to cover the rest of the cost of the bike," Meza said.
In addition to the adaptive bike, the foundation gifted Julian's family with $2,500 to help with any additional expenses.
Missi Roper, Julian's kindergarten teacher, said Julian and his family are more than deserving of this gift. As Julian's teacher, Roper sees how hard Julian works each day to learn and connect with his classmates.
"He is an awesome kid," Roper said.
Julian is looking forward to riding his new adaptive bike with his sister in the afternoons.
"You really don't think about the things that he is physically limited to do until he turns his age," Meza said. "To see him in a bike, to know that he will be able to ride a bike with his sister, it's everything to me.
To learn more about the Specially Gifted Foundation and their mission, visit their website.