Seven-year-old Dhruv Shah just thought he was going for a joyride Wednesday morning on his special new bike.
But when he turned into the Green Hope Elementary School parking lot, hundreds of students and teachers clapped and gave him high-fives as he rode by on the bike he won in a national competition. The boy’s face lit up as his classmates chanted out his name, and his smile seemed to bring on more cheers – and a few tears – from adults.
Dhruv, of Morrisville, has cerebral palsy. His family entered him in the Great Bike Giveaway from Friendship Circle, a charity for children with special needs, for the possibility of winning a DUET wheelchair bicycle. The bike, worth more than $5,000, is driven by another person as Dhruv is strapped into a seat on the front.
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And so on Wednesday, the school’s children decked out in green, the color of cerebral palsy awareness, gathered as Dhruv was driven by teachers around the parking lot.
“Hearing those chants today, is just, I was overwhelmed with the amount of support,” said Dipti Shah, Dhruv’s mother. “I had tears rolling down my eyes seeing his smile and then hearing everyone chant, ‘Dhruv! Go, Dhruv!’ ”
Shah said the welcome was a surprise for Dhruv. He wasn’t told beforehand that the school would be there to greet him.
“(The school) came up with this idea of a bike ride,” Shah said. “To hear that support that he got from the kids and the staff, he’s going to be talking about it for awhile, and I know it meant the world to him, and it means the world to us.”
Dhruv has limited mobility, his mother said. The new bike will allow him to do something he usually can’t do, she said.
“It just means he can be outdoors enjoying nature, being out with the other kids rather than sitting on the sidelines, watching other kids do things that he can’t do,” she said.
This is the second year that the Shahs have entered the competition for the bike. They decided to enter again after not winning last year. This time, they were more organized in soliciting votes to get the bike from the Michigan-based organization, which hopes to award hundreds of adaptive bikes to children and teens with special needs.
The family reached out to local media, received help from the local Indian community and partnered with Andrew Valkanoff, the owner of Triangle Dairy Queen.
Valkanoff said when Dipti and her husband, Jigar Shah, told him about the competition, he immediately made it his mission to do his part.
“If you’re going to be part of the community, you have to support the community.” said Valkanoff, who came to the school to watch Dhruv and donate popsicles. “Dhruv, he does more every day than most kids have to. So for us, it’s about every kid deserves a bike, and it was just our opportunity to help with that.”
The emotion of the day was felt by everyone. While the kids were jumping around, adults wiped away tears.
“What a great lesson for young kids to learn,” Valkanoff said. “If we did more of this, as a community, it’d be a lot better.”
Dipti Shah said she and her family are thankful for the time and love shown by Dhruv’s supporters.
“He’s our son, and we want the best for him,” she said. “But to see others wanting the best for him too, it means a lot.”
Paige Connelly: 919-460-2609, @pconnellly