Identical twins Jack and Oliver Kinkin were overjoyed when they received new custom bicycles from the Marseilles Masonic Lodge last week.
Both boys could hardly wait to sit on the them and start riding with the help of their parents, Erin and Cole, of Ottawa.
While not officially diagnosed, Oliver is showing signs of autism, while Jack is experiencing speech and developmental delays.
The bicycles, specially suited to each child’s needs, were donated by the Marseilles Masonic Lodge.
“When Oliver was 18 months old, he wasn’t talking, just making humming sounds,” Erin said. “Cole and I thought maybe it was the pacifier, so we took it away, but the humming didn’t stop. He just seemed very withdrawn. Jack wasn’t talking yet and he seemed behind in developing, so when the boys were 21 months old, we talked to our pediatrician.”
The boys started therapy, but a commute to Yorkville was hard and the boys weren’t showing any progress. At the age of 2, their pediatrician and therapists recommended Starved Rock Regional Center for Therapy and Child Development. Erin and Cole saw results and improvements right away.
“The boys have made incredible progress,” said Kelly Bault, the therapist working with Jack and Oliver. “I’ve been seeing them for about 1 1/2 years and they’ve come a long way. I visit the boys at their home and that’s so good for them because they’re so relaxed and happy in their own environment. That makes a world of difference with the amazing progress they’re making.”
The bicycles are specifically designed by AMBUCS to hold a child’s head in place. Because each child has special needs, each bike is custom-designed. All bikes come with helmets and tall flags — most all have a steering handle so parents can guide their child.
While the boys were busy riding their one-of-a-kind bicycles in the Lodge’s presentation room, Tracy Beattie, president and CEO of Starved Rock Regional Center, talked about the achievements the boys have accomplished this year. Besides being awarded with the bikes, Jack and Oliver serve as the 2019 ambassadors for SRRC.
Beattie said the agency provides free screenings in Ottawa and through La Salle and Bureau counties. They also have a structured toddler class for 2-year-olds and an on-site autism resource center in Ottawa.
With the donations, the Masonic Lodge surpassed the hopes it had when it first began the program in May 2012.
“It’s a great accomplishment for the 30 kids who couldn’t ride a bike before, and well ... now they can and that’s the most important thing,” said past Master W.B. Charles D. Wood Jr. “That’s why we do this.”
Wood said the Lodge could not run the program without the financial support and help from SRCC and the surrounding communities.
“We’ve truly been blessed with so many good-hearted people who want to see a child receive a bike,” Wood said.
Erin and Cole were smiling as bright as their boys.
“We are so grateful for the kids’ gifts,” Erin said. “And we were surprised. When Kelly (Bault) called to tell us they were going to receive the bikes, the only thing I could think of to say was ‘that’s incredible.’ And it is. SRCC and the Masonic Lodge have just done so much for us. We are very thankful.”