Pedals to podium

Andrea Gunn
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How a local bike team helped a Ukrainian orphan achieve national success

In the summer of 2011, Barry Elliott of Grand Falls-Windsor and seven other men and women embarked on a journey of a lifetime – to bike from Victoria BC to St. John’s, Newfoundland. The trip was an effort to raise money for ‘Operations Can Be Done,’ an initiative that helps fund various types of surgeries for disabled children living in Ukrainian orphanages.

Many, many kilometers and later, the group of bikers were able to donate $101,085 to the Load of Love organization for the Operations Can Be Done project.

Two years later, the group is just beginning to see the huge impact that their donation has made on these children – many of whom had given up hope that they would ever walk again.

Barry Elliott was a member of the Operations Can Be Done bike team. He was recently told by Loads of Love director Ed Dickson that their donations have helped more than 100 children receive operations or physiotherapy for various issues.

“We had no idea how many children would be able to be helped because each case is different,” Elliott said.

One of the children that was helped by the team’s donation was 12-year-old Alina Bobkova.

Like many children who are born with physical deformities or disabilities in her country, Alina was abandoned at birth by her parents because she had club feet. According to a release sent out by Loads of Love, she had surgery on both her feet when she was one year old, but because the proper casts and developmental braces weren’t provided it was unsuccessful.

When Loads of Love became aware of Alina’s situation in 2011, she was barely able to walk.

“Since 2011, she has had three operations and she has responded very enthusiastically to the increased attention that she is now getting,” the release reads. “Even her results in school have improved dramatically.  Alina has always had a very bubbly personality and all the doctors and nurses that were involved in her operations and the related treatment took to her immediately.”

Alina will one day be able to walk normally but extensive rehabilitation and physiotherapy is required to ensure a proper recovery. One of Alina’s doctors recommended she try swimming to strengthen the muscles in her legs and feet.

Volunteers found Alina a pool where she could swim regularly, and according to Loads of Love, she took to it immediately.

“While Alina was swimming at the local pool one day, a man who was involved in the national Paralympic movement in the country of Ukraine saw her swimming.  Alina apparently had significant ability and even greater potential,” reads the Loads of Love report.

Soon after, the Loads of Love organization was asked to help with the costs of equipment and training so she could try out for the national Paralympic team.

Earlier this spring, Alina won four gold medals at a Ukrainian national Paralympic competition.

Elliott said he was thrilled when he heard Alina’s story, knowing his efforts and the efforts of his team members helped change her life in such an enormous way.

“I feels really good knowing that you can help someone in a different country that without our funds would never be able to have this kind of surgery,” said Elliott. “I knew kids would probably walk because of what we did, but I didn’t know how far it would go.”

Organizations: Love organization

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Ukraine

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