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Released April 26, 2004

By Chris Rolley

LONG BEACH -- Daniel Hilsinger, a 51-year-old paraplegic, can now ride a bike again - by peddling with his hands, instead of his legs - thanks to The University of Southern Mississippi's Toy Library and Technology Learning Center (TLC) at the Gulf Park campus.

With a $56,460 grant from the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services Spinal Chord and Brain Injury Trust Fund, TLC announces its new program "Paddles and Pedals." The grant calls for new equipment: four hand cycles and five kayaks.

Any person, adult or child, who has a special need that would prevent him or her from using a regular bicycle or tricycle is now eligible to borrow the adapted tricycles. These cycles are designed to be pedaled with the hands instead of the feet. Included in TLC's inventory are hand cycles for recreational use as well as for racing competitions.

"With these specially designed hand cycles, the exhilaration of a bike ride can be a part of life for people who use wheelchairs," said Dr. Sara Jackson, director of TLC.

Hilsinger exemplifies that kind of situation. In 1977, Hilsinger was involved in a serious car accident while in southern Mexico. The resulting medical treatment, including a surgery to repair a compound fracture of his left femur, left his leg severely infected. Three years and 14 additional surgeries later, the decision was made to amputate his leg above the knee.

Hilsinger adjusted to his new life without his leg, but never got over what he loved to do.

"I used to own motorcycles and enjoyed riding bicycles - now these activities became difficult," he said. "TLC has now gotten me involved in the use of hand-powered tricycles. After more than 25 years, I can cruise again."

Hilsinger also has taken advantage of TLC's tennis wheelchairs and is involved in wheelchair basketball, along with the new hand cycles.

"The use of tricycles has given me back something I had basically given up on - the pleasure of leisurely or vigorously riding down a road on a bicycle-like apparatus," said Hilsinger. "Another totally amazing thing is that I can check out this equipment (tricycles and tennis wheelchairs) at no cost due to TLC. I have also been receiving tennis lessons from staff at TLC, also at no cost."

Other recreation equipment that is available at TLC include: beach wheelchairs, all-terrain wheelchairs, adapted fishing equipment, an accessible golf cart and adapted clubs, and tennis wheelchairs (with free lessons). All equipment may be borrowed for up to two weeks.

"TLC provides a wide variety of services and equipment to persons with medical conditions at no cost," said Hilsinger. "Not only does this assist me in improving my health, both physically and mentally, but by getting folks like me out on the roads, tennis courts, beaches and (in) classrooms, the general public becomes more sensitive and aware. Many learn that being a person with a medical condition can be a new opportunity to enjoy being who you are."

For more information about the hand cycles, "Paddles and Pedals," and other TLC services, call the center at (228) 867-2636.


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April 27, 2004 9:22 AM