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Bike ‘MacGyver’ gives all children the chance to ride a bicycle

4 min read

Good Stuff
Bike ‘MacGyver’ gives all children the chance to ride a bicycle
Source: BoydHuppert/KARE11

Jack Carlson believes every child – regardless of physical challenges – should experience the thrill of riding a bike.

After decades working in bike shops, Jack Carlson has found a new passion

Jacob "Jack" Carlton would just tell you he makes bikes. But those who know him call him a real-life bike-MacGyver for children with special needs. With decades in the bike repair business, Jack custom builds tricycles that ensure anyone and everyone gets to experience the thrill of riding a bike. Many of the children Jack helps have never been able to walk or run on their own, let alone pedal a trike. The first time they sit on one of Jack’s custom-built designs, it’s a feeling of independence they’ve never known. 

They are children who have been told they can't possibly ride a bikeSource: Facebook/BoydHuppert

“There’s always a way,” says Jack. “There’s always a way.”

With callused hands and a face lit by grinding wheel sparks, Jack Carlson toils for hours in his garage in Lauderdale, Mineapolis. He is driven by a simple notion. Jack believes every child should ride a bike. 

“If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a parent say, ‘I never thought they’d be able to do this,’ I’d definitely be a lot richer now,” he told Boyd Huppert, for KARE11.

Given that dollar, Jack would probably give it back. It’s not money that drives him, but putting children with physical challenges in the rider’s seat.

“There’s always a way,” he says. “There’s always a way.”

Word-of-mouth can travel faster than a 10-speed Schwinn, and Jack is becoming known in the therapy community as a go-to guy. Sometimes he’s able to make minor modifications to existing products. Other times Jack pulls out his grinding wheels and welder and goes to work MacGyver-style.

Source: KARE11

Both Linsey Rippy's daughters, 11-year-old Madison and 8-year-old Sidney, are heart transplant recipients.  Both ride three-wheeled bikes set up by Jack.
“I cried, because I didn’t know if I’d ever see my kids ride a bike,” Both Linsey Rippy’s daughters, 11-year-old Madison and 8-year-old Sidney, are heart transplant recipients.  Both ride three-wheeled bikes set up by Jack. Source: BoydHuppert/KARE11
Lila’s mother, Aimee Jordan, says the bike has given Lila independence. Aimee points to a cul-de-sac up the street from the family’s Plymouth home. “She gets to show off over there while all the kids are outside, riding her bike and not her wheelchair,” Aimee says.
Jack put 7-year-old Lila Tjader on a bike too, despite her cerebral palsy Lila’s mother, Aimee Jordan, says the bike has given Lila independence. Aimee points to a cul-de-sac up the street from the family’s Plymouth home. “She gets to show off over there while all the kids are outside, riding her bike and not her wheelchair,” Aimee says. Source: AimeeJordan/KARE11
“I looked in toy stores, online, everywhere,” says Bobbie Jo, whose 3-year-old daughter Carlee has a form of dwarfism, leaving her legs too short for regular bikes and riding toys.
For Carlee, Jack cut up - and then welded back together - a pink princess bike, the smallest one he could find.
It’s the kind of freedom Bobbie Jo and Adam McDermott want for their daughter, too “I looked in toy stores, online, everywhere,” says Bobbie Jo, whose 3-year-old daughter Carlee has a form of dwarfism, leaving her legs too short for regular bikes and riding toys.
For Carlee, Jack cut up – and then welded back together – a pink princess bike, the smallest one he could find. Source: BoydHuppert/KARE11
Jack is a perfect fit for this work. He started part-time in a bike shop as a teenager and still works with bikes four decades later. “It was almost getting me to the point where I wanted to get out of it, I was tired of the same old thing,” Jack says.  “And then this came along and kind of restarted the spark.”
“The best part of doing all this stuff is seeing the kids smile when you’re done,” he says Jack is a perfect fit for this work. He started part-time in a bike shop as a teenager and still works with bikes four decades later. “It was almost getting me to the point where I wanted to get out of it, I was tired of the same old thing,” Jack says.  “And then this came along and kind of restarted the spark.” Source: BoydHuppert/KARE11

“It’s really the ability for her to be a kid, for her to have freedom and for her to go fast,”

Katie Welch sees a spark too, in her daughter, each time 7-year-old Layla hoists herself up on the seat of her Jack-built bike. 

“It’s really the ability for her to be a kid, for her to have freedom and for her to go fast,” says Katie, who looked at hundreds of bikes for Layla that didn’t work, before she found Jack.

“They said it wasn’t possible and here he was picking up all these different parts and putting it together in this puzzle,” Layla’s mother says. 

Jack would approve. The smoke from his welder wafts through the garage, the molten metal on the princess bike still glows red. “This is the best thing I do,” Jack says.

Watch Freedom Ride to see more of this heartwarming story.

Source: KARE11

“I do adventures,” she says. “I get to fit in with other people.”
Smiling broadly, Layla peddles her pink bike up the sidewalk away from her home “I do adventures,” she says. “I get to fit in with other people.” Source: BoydHuppert/KARE11
Make an Impact

Help Jack to help others and donate through GoFundMe

All donations to my GoFundMe campaign will be spent 100% on bridging the gap for families in need. Need based support will be determined by me through relationships with all parties involved, including therapists, case workers, etc. I promise to make every dollar go as far as possible to our goal of helping every child have the freedom to ride.