Free ride

Young girl celebrates day in her name — on her new pretty pink bicycle.

Story by Kasey Jackson | Photos by Matt Kryger

Gathered outside under the overhang of a small building at the Benjamin Harrison YMCA in Lawrence, Indiana, members and friends of the Kiwanis Club of Lawrence chat excitedly as they await the arrival of their very special guest. 

Then they hear it. The sirens. Lots and lots of sirens.

“Oh, that must be her,” says Kiwanis member Tom Crouch with a laugh. “She sure is making an entrance.”

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You can barely make out the sound at first. But then, it appears. A caravan of nine cars — six of them police vehicles with lights flashing and sirens blaring — creeping down the streets of Lawrence. They curve through the parking lot and stop at the curb. Doors open. The star of the day pops out of the backseat of the second patrol car and marches straight toward the waiting crowd. Not a sign of shyness or fear in her. 

This is 7-year-old Mashala Garnett. And she’s here to get her new pink bicycle.

Mashala wastes no time at all. She climbs up onto the seat as Kiwanians gather around to help her buckle into her new matching pink helmet. Kathy Michaud helps Mashala strap her feet onto the pedals. Michaud, a pediatric physical therapist with Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in Indianapolis, has been working several years with Mashala, who has cerebral palsy. She explains how the bike will work. 

“It’s going to be great for her,” Michaud says. “She works on a bike in therapy. It works on her strength, her balance and her coordination to be able to pedal and steer at the same time. And she has fun doing it, so it’s a great activity for her.”

Mashala is ready to get going.

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“When Riley Hospital called us and said Mashala needed a bike, we stepped up and said, ‘We gotta make that happen,’” says Tom Crouch. “We went to the Lawrence community and asked businesspeople to step up and help with the purchase. And they did. We raised US$1,500.

“I think we all remember what our first bike was like. Every child deserves a bike. And now Mashala has hers.”

As the Kiwanis members, community friends and donors watch Mashala navigate the parking lot and return to the sidewalk, there’s another fun surprise.

“I have a proclamation from the mayor of the city of Lawrence,” says Tom Crouch. The proclamation reads, in part, that the mayor proclaims August 31, 2019, as Mashala Garnett Day in the city of Lawrence.

“I’m so happy,” says Kendra Garnett, Mashala’s mother. “I’ve been wanting her to get one of these bikes for a long time. She finally has something to ride because she can’t really ride the normal bikes. I’m grateful. And now she has a day dedicated to her. That’s really nice.”

As the family says many thanks and goodbyes, Kiwanis members share how they feel about projects like this one.

“This day was really incredible,” says Lawrence Kiwanis member Marge Crouch. “The smile on her face made it all worthwhile. We were so happy to support her. It made my day too!”


This story originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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