Photo: Kale McQuade and family pet Millie with the bike built in a ‘Bikes for Tykes’ program and donated by Maribyrnong College.
It is amazing how the gift of a bike can transform a life.
Just ask Kale McQuade and his father Phill about what a bike can do for health, confidence and motivation, and you will understand the power that the team building program ‘Bikes for Tykes’ can deliver.
It all started back in June 2016 when team building specialist Corporate Challenge Events organised a ‘Bikes for Tykes’ day for staff at Maribyrnong College in Melbourne.
The college was seeking fun team building activities for work that made a difference and left a lasting impact on its group.
So ‘Bikes for Tykes’ it was. All their participants split into teams and had a fun time completing challenges and building a set of bicycles from scratch.
Little did they know that the finale to the ‘Bikes for Tykes’ day was a presentation to Ronald McDonald House Parkville and the Ronald McDonald Learning Program.
You see, the power in ‘Bikes for Tykes’ is the gift of giving at its conclusion.
The event organiser from Maribyrnong College chose Ronald McDonald House for its ongoing support for children and their families impacted by serious illness. Children residing in the House, as well as local students being supported educationally through the Learning Program, would be the recipients of the bikes.
Fast forward almost two years and this story is evidence of the impact that one of those bikes has had on a country Victorian family.
Kale McQuade, a 15-year-old schoolboy in the town of Woodend, has Marfan syndrome which is a genetic disorder of the body’s connective tissue.
It can affect people in different ways and to different degrees but can lead to serious complications of the heart, spine, bones, eyes and lungs.
For the McQuade family, Marfan syndrome has brought ongoing pain but, through the support of Ronald McDonald House Charities, it has also brought them together.
Kale has grown up with long thin arm and legs, a common feature of Marfan syndrome, and required a spinal fusion two years ago to correct scoliosis.
He also lost his mum Jenny to the condition in 2014, meaning his dad Phill had to be the rock for the family to support Kale and his two older siblings Jarrod and Katie on a disability pension.
Thankfully Phill discovered Ronald McDonald House Charities which has provided tremendous support for the McQuades including week-long getaways through its Family Retreat Program and tutoring for Kale through its Learning Program.
And, also the gift of a bike in 2016 from Maribyrnong College!
“The support from Ronald McDonald House, Corporate Challenge Events and Maribyrnong College who gave my boy this great bike has been a beacon of light in the darkness of hard times following the death of my wife,” said Phill.
“To get a phone call to hear that Kale was being gifted a bike nearly bought me to tears. It was like ‘ok we are not alone and there are good people who want to help us’.”
It initially took encouragement from Kale’s family and one of his friends Gervase to go out for a ride on the new bike but, since that day, he hasn’t looked back.
“The transformation in him both physically and mentally has been wonderful,” said Phill.
“He has built up his leg muscles, developed more stamina and strength, all of which has helped his back following surgery.
“It has given him a lot of independence and something active to do with friends and even myself and our dog Millie which has been a lot of fun for us.
“Not too long ago, he clocked up over 50 kilometres of riding in one weekend.”
Phill believes the confidence and motivation that the bike has brought has snowballed into other areas of his life.
“Maths was his worst subject at school and due to missing months of schooling after his surgery, he was actually failing maths.
“The Ronald McDonald Learning Program supported us with a tutor and just having that motivation from riding has really helped him - he is now passing maths.”
It seems though that Kale has more of a creative side than mathematical side, if another of his passions and achievements is anything to go by.
“Kale loves making short films and last year achieved a wonderful award to further ignite his interest in this area,” said Phill.
Kale’s film ‘Out of Time’ was selected as a regional finalist and won ‘Audience Choice Award’ at the 2017 International Youth Silent Film Festival.
“I don’t know where we would be today without the support of Ronald McDonald House and that bike, a 26-inch with 21 gears, has brought so much more joy to his life.”
Corporate Challenge Events is a leader in creating positive team cultures by delivering team building exercises, fun group activities and corporate training workshops in Australia and New Zealand.