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Big win for a small boy: Strider Cup special needs race empowers children
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Big win for a small boy: Strider Cup special needs race empowers children

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Six-year-old Andy Brockmeier gripped the handles on his red, pedal-less bike and propelled himself down the starting ramp Saturday afternoon.

His older brother, Simon, 8, ran alongside him, ringing two yellow bells and signaling a thumbs-up.

"You can do it, Andy!" he cheered from the top of his lungs. 

They crossed the finish line of the Strider Cup Race, and after shouts of congratulations, the brothers bounced up and down in triumphant victory.

"He makes me very proud," Simon said about Andy, who was born with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that can cause developmental delays. 

Andy also participated in the Strider Cup Race last year, the first time it was held in Lincoln. About 170 children raced at Tower Square at 13th and P streets Saturday, said Strider public relations manager Kyla Wright.

The Strider Cup Race is held around the U.S. and in 24 other countries. Children up to age 5 compete in age-specific races and are awarded trophies after the races. 

In honor of the race, Mayor Chris Beutler declared June 10 Youth Cycling Day, and Gov. Pete Ricketts declared it Kids Bike & Smile Day, according to a release.

Andy's parents, Kathryn and Greg Brockmeier, said the race encourages community support and gives Andy the opportunity to do "something that typical kids do."

"It makes us feel included," Kathryn said.

Andy plans to compete each year and hand his bike down to his 2-year-old brother, Benjamin, when he outgrows it. 

The special needs race was added the the event three years ago after Strider began selling larger-sized balance bikes. The pedal-less bikes work well for children with special needs because they are lighter in weight and help with learning balance.

Additionally, the pedal-less bikes don't have training wheels, which makes older children feel as if they're riding a regular bike.

"For the families with children who have special needs, it's life-changing," Wright said. "A lot of them have been told their child may never ride a bike."

Andy was one of nine participants who raced in the special needs race this year. He's taken Special Olympics training courses at Easterday Recreation Center.

Coach Shelley Klosterboer showed up Saturday to cheer on her students — she knew almost all of them from Special Olympics courses. 

She said she's proud to see the kids "feel confident and comfortable with themselves."

For the second year in a row, Andy won a first-place trophy, nearly half as tall as he is.

Andy's parents said he proudly displays the prize in his bedroom, a constant reminder of his success and a fun day surrounded by friends. When guests visit, he makes sure to point it out or drags it from his room to show them.

"I think he's proud of himself," his mother said. "He'll be talking about this for weeks."


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