Zionsville girl with cerebral palsy receives custom bike

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A 9-year-old from Zionsville got a present she’s wanted her whole life, courtesy of engineering students at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

For a year, a group of students worked long hours to make the perfect gift for Bella Cates, who lives with cerebral palsy and has long wanted a bicycle that safely accommodates her.

“As a mom, you can only imagine how it breaks your heart when you see your child trying to keep up,” said Marcie Cates, Bella’s mother, talking about watching Bella and her friends biking.

For two years, Bella has tried countless bikes. None were comfortable or safe for Bella’s right leg.

“Traditional training wheels were challenging, weren’t they?” Marcie said to Bella.

The Cates family reached out to Rose-Hulman to see if its engineering students could help. Five students made it their senior project. They took a Walmart bicycle and spent hundreds of hours transforming it for Bella.

“We were all motivated throughout the year to keep working hard on this bike,” said Michel Farhat, a senior from Houston, Texas.

They added an adjustable seat, along with custom pedals, wheels, handlebars and brakes. And students learned to weld so they could create a custom bike frame.

“That way we could make the bike look professional,” said Joshua Henning, a senior from Springfield, Illinois.

On Thursday, Bella got her new bike to ride and keep up with her best friends.

It was the perfect fit for a girl with a heart of gold. She told WISH-TV she chose aqua as the color of her bike for a special reason: “It’s my mom’s favorite color. I just picked it because I thought (she) would like it.”

“Oh Bella! That’s really, really nice,” her mom said.

The students say it’s Bella’s infectious personality that inspired them.

“Being able to put a smile on her face and knowing she’ll be able to have fun with her friends was a great feeling,” said Henning.     

It’s a bike that will last years and a memory that will last a lifetime. 

While the custom bike was given to the Cates family as a gift, a Rose-Hulman spokesperson said he’d guess the customized bike would cost about $1,000 to make. The university covered those costs for the students.

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