Freedom of movement
ES Riders and Segways: That's how they roll
By SHAWNE K. WICKHAM
New Hampshire Sunday News | June 16. 2013 12:12AM
"Now you know how I feel," her daughter replied with a big grin.
Being able to use her Segway at New Boston Central School, where Paxton is finishing fourth grade, means she no longer has to leave 10 minutes early to get to her next class.
And it's not just at school. "Shopping has been great because she can keep up," she said. "It's all positive."
"Oh my gosh, it's meant the world," said Allison Pajunen, mother of 11-year-old Joshua, the newest member of ES Riders. "There are so many more things that we can do as a family."
But the very first time her son tried the Segway, she said, "he picked it up right away."
When he relied on a walker for mobility, Pajunen said, her son was limited in where he could go. "You go to parks and it's usually either sand or mulch. In his walker, he would sink and just fall and trip. Now he can do whatever he wants."
During a recent family gathering, Joshua could play outside with his cousins like never before, his mom said.
"I'm a huge dog lover," Pajunen said. But she couldn't leave Joshua behind to walk a dog, so getting one was out.
"Now he can come with us, so now we're getting a dog," she said. They've already picked out Chloe, a bulldog-boxer cross who's coming home next weekend.
Tom O'Reilly is the Manchester businessman and former Easter Seals board member who turned a good idea into a successful charity.
Back in 2005, he was participating in the annual Walk with Me walkathon alongside Andy Martin, an Easter Seals child representative that year. "It took all his energy to cross Elm Street from Merrimack to the other side," O'Reilly recalled.
"I went home and I couldn't get it out of my mind," O'Reilly recalled. "It was one of those really wonderful nights, looking at a really great, great young man facing challenges most of us don't have to face in our lifetimes, but always smiling. Always smiling."
The program operates under the umbrella of New Hampshire Easter Seals. There's a small informal board of volunteers that reviews potential candidates who are recommended by Easter Seals, school officials or community organizations, and determines who will get Segways or scooters.
"It allows students to go out to recess and actually run and play with their classmates." And the cool factor turns these kids into celebrities, he added.
Some of the most ardent supporters of ES Riders are the students at McKelvie Intermediate School in Bedford. That's where Ginny Toland teaches fifth-grade language arts and social studies and mentors the Community Action Team.
And each year, at a school assembly, the students watch as the newest recipient tries out his or her new wheels.
"It brings to life what they did, so they know what they're doing is the right thing," Toland said. "To see the difference that they made."