Do you remember the first time you experienced the sense of accomplishment and independence after pedaling a bike on your own, without training wheels and a hand assisting on the seat?

That's what it must have felt like for first-grader Gavin Jacobsen of Westside, Iowa, when he recently took his first ride on a specialized tricycle owned by Northwest Area Education Agency (AEA).

Gavin has cerebral palsy, which affects movement in his right arm and leg, as well as his trunk strength. His condition affects his walking and running abilities and prevents him from balancing on a bike.

When Gavin's physical therapist from Northwest AEA, Jennifer Kaskey, introduced him to an AmTryke therapeutic tricycle last fall he said to her, "I've never been on a bike before!"

Imagine his excitement when he was able to pedal his way around a gymnasium on his own ability, proudly pushing himself carefree and exploring his world in a different way.

After his first ride and at his next Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting, Jennifer and Theresa Hansen, special education strategist at Northwest AEA, and other Ar-We-Va school team members, quickly decided to put Gavin's name on the AMBUCS registry to receive a donated AmTryke from AMVETS. AMBUCS is a non-profit service organization dedicated to creating mobility and independence for people with disabilities and the AMVETS (American Vets) organization donates bikes to people with special needs.

Unfortunately, the waiting list for donations is very long, and Gavin was told that he was about 500th on the list. The special education teachers at Ar-We-Va, including Cheryl Megill and Gavin's reading teacher, sought other avenues of funding to help grant him his wish.

The teachers asked the first-graders at Ar-We-Va to help in this effort. They wrote a letter to KKRL, a local Carroll, Iowa, radio station to grant the wish of Gavin to receive a bike. The station obliged with a donation and the student council at Gavin's school funded the remaining balance.

Right before the Christmas holiday break, the bike was presented to Gavin by his classmates, teachers and Santa, of course!

Not only was the bike a terrific prelude to the Christmas season, it was probably one of the greatest gifts ever given to Gavin, all made possible by dedicated educators, compassionate community members and thoughtful classmates.