An autistic man in River Falls, Wisconsin, recently received a much-needed gift, thanks to his kind-hearted neighbors.
Twenty-year-old Ty Burch loves to ride his bike throughout the community every day, waving at people as he goes by, according to KARE 11.
“It’s what I’m mostly good at,” the young man said of his favorite pastime.
“Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication,” according to AutismSpeaks.org.
People with autism experience difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication, and may misunderstand gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
When the frame on Ty’s 2-year-old bicycle broke recently as he rode toward home, he thought his days of care-free cycling were over.
“I felt I was about to tip over and fall,” he recalled. His mom, Jenny Burch, told reporters that she was also disappointed and worried for her son.
“I think it’s just kind of his escape from everything. I felt like I was failing as a parent because, I’m like, I need to buy a new bike, but that’s a big purchase,” she said.
However, a retired police chief from a nearby town saw Ty as he struggled to make it home on his broken bicycle and called River Falls Police Chief Gordon Young to see what could be done.
Thankfully, Chief Young knew exactly who to contact because the River Falls community had been down the same road before.
In 2017, community member Elise Koop organized a fundraiser to purchase a bike for her coworker, Francis Johnson, who had worn out his own. Sadly, just ten months after she surprised him with a new set of wheels, Francis passed away.
Since then, the Francis Johnson Bike Project has made sure Ty and others in River Falls who depend on their bikes for transportation have one.
This week at the police station, the community presented the young man with a brand new three-wheeled bicycle. Ty was so surprised at the gift, he asked if he was “being punked.”
Once he was back on the road, Ty said, “I like to ride because it makes me feel like I’m free and I can do whatever I want.”