Top of the Morning, Aug. 8, 2018

Top of the Morning, Aug. 8, 2018

"It was heaven."

That was how VIRGINIA SHONKWILER described her latest training ride on a special bicycle-wheelchair tandem called "The Duet" (right).

Shonkwiler, 73, is a resident of Maple Point, an assisted-living community in Monticello, and has been the driving force behind the idea.

It was her prodding that got Maple Point Director KARA OLSEN on board.

"It's just very important for them to be able to experience that youthful feeling again," Olsen said. "They don't get to experience a lot of that anymore."

And when a grant to help fund the program didn't come through, the Piatt County Nursing Home Foundation stepped up and bought two of the bikes, which come at a cost of around $8,000 apiece.

The Foundation also will help pay for upkeep and repairs on the bikes.

Thus, the Piatt County Pedal Pushers was born. The program is still in its infancy, but Olsen hopes to expand it out into the county to give others — including those who are disabled or homebound — the chance to get that "joy" again.

The first ride is scheduled to happen at 9 this morning at Maple Point. Needless to say, residents are pumped.

"Every time we get them out to practice, they line up," Olsen said. "'Can we go yet, can we go yet?'"

The demand has been so great that Maple Point is having a lottery to determine who gets the first two rides.

"We'll pull a couple names to see who goes first," she said.

So far, five volunteers have completed their three-hour training, with five more working through it.

"We're excited that it has taken off and that the community is interested in it," Olsen said.

If you're interested in becoming a driver, helping out with scheduling or even donating to the cause, contact Olsen at 217-762-6655.

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