Lone Star Wheelers (LSW), a nonprofit organization started by Plano resident Shannon Catalano, provides the opportunity for elderly citizens or those with disabilities to get outside and enjoy a bike ride. These populations typically experience limitations that make it difficult to ride a bike on their own, but LSW has changed that.
“I remember when I was visiting my grandma in memory care, and she was talking about wanting to ride her bike. She had never mentioned that before, but in her dementia, she was reverting back to her childhood memories,” Shannon shared. “When I moved to Plano three years ago, I was looking for ways to get connected, and I love to bike so I was searching for things involving that. Online, I found the Portland Wheelers in Maine. I based my program off of them.”
There are a few programs like Portland Wheelers around the country, but none existed within a several-hundred-mile radius of Plano, so Shannon took it upon herself to start one. Lone Star Wheelers allows volunteers to give a second person a ride on an adapted bicycle. The person in front is fully supported and does not have to pedal. The volunteer in back does all the leg work.
Due to COVID-19, the program has been on hold since early March. Before then, it operated out of DaySpring Senior Living in Plano. Though Shannon intends to expand into serving the disabled community, LSW primarily serves elderly citizens currently. They do have one young adult with spina bifida who has joined them on their rides.
An Anniversary Bike Parade
LSW launched Sept. 14, 2019, so Shannon planned a bike parade exactly one year later to commemorate the program’s first anniversary.
The riders at DaySpring are part of the high-risk population for COVID-19 because they are elderly. Like other senior living centers around the world, DaySpring has been on lockdown since March due to the pandemic. LSW wanted to bring some joy to both the residents and staff by holding a parade throughout the parking lot of the center.
Volunteers circled the center several times in costume, with balloons, cowbells provided by the City of Plano and other decorations adorning their bikes. DaySpring Senior Living residents were able to watch the parade from inside. Mini Encounters brought their miniature therapy horses right up to the windows.
“My feeling about this is a bit ‘now or never.’ It’s not going to be perfect, and that’s okay,” Shannon shared before the event. “I want this to be not just for the residents, but for the staff, too. I can’t imagine how they’re feeling, caring for such a vulnerable population. They need a morale boost, too.”
In honor of LSW’s first anniversary, Shannon created certificates for each of the riders that say how many rides they’ve been on and how many minutes they’ve been on the bike. The staff at DaySpring will host an award ceremony for the riders, where those certificates will be presented.
When it’s once again safe, LSW will continue its previous schedule of Saturday afternoon rides for senior citizens and anyone else who would like to join them out of that location. Those who are interested in getting a ride on the adapted bicycle can contact Shannon at 469-816-3844.
Lone Star Wheelers is also participating in North Texas Giving Day. You can support them through Sept. 17.Lone Star Wheelers >