PARIS — A 20-year-old South Paris man born without lower arms or lower legs got his wish Tuesday: a specially made bicycle to ride to Camp No Limits in Rome where he hopes to inspire other youths without limbs.
“I just want to get going,” said a restless Josh Kennison, a track and soccer coach at Oxford Hills Middle School, as he waited at his home on Gary Street for his five riding partners to begin the 60-mile trip.
“He’s an amazing young man,” said his running trainer, Randy Olson of Harrison. “He’s showing us all what can be done if we put our mind to it.”
“This is my first time (riding a bicycle) in 12 years,” Kennison said as he sat on the bicycle made possible by The Sisters Wish in Sanford and Epic Man, a charity to inspire others. The two organizations arranged to have a bicycle built for Kennison after The Sisters Wish founders learned of him on Facebook, said Beth Turgeon-Michalak of The Sisters Wish.
“We partnered with Epic Man and raised a large sum of money,” Turgeon-Michalak said. “(Kennison is) just an incredible young man, an incredible athlete.”
She and her sister, Amy Turgeon-Sevigny, wanted to grant wishes that would show how people overcome adversity, she said.
Through a $2,500 donation, Kennison was sent to Lake Placid, N.Y., where he met with Jeff Erenstone of Mountain Orthodic & Prosthetic Services. A bike from Placid Planet Bikes was modified by Erenstone using molded cups for Kennison’s arms and clip pedals that are generally used by professional bicyclists.
Kennison was Epic Man’s first “Epic Wish;” he was The Sister’s Wish’s eighth wish fulfilled.
“We saw a real need to help young adults,” Turgeon-Michalak said. She and her sister began The Sisters Wish two years ago after losing their father to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Days later, their 24-year-old brother died of cancer. Their mother committed suicide at age 39.
The sisters created the organization to honor their family members and to try to involve more people in community service. The Sisters Wish grants wishes to terminally and chronically ill people ages 18 to 30 in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Will Thomas of Portland and Seth Bradbury of Chicago, both of Epic Man, raised money to help support Kennison’s wish by running an endurance race in April, kayaking from Peak’s Island to Portland, and bicycling 139 miles from Portland to Hopkinton, Mass., where they participated in the 26-mile Boston Marathon.
The pair came to Paris this week to ride with Kennison, along with Jeremy Glines, a friend of Epic Man from Bedford, N.H., Erenstone and Tyler Bradbury, the brother of Seth, who came from Boston.
“It’s a huge eye-opener for kids,” Erenstone said of Kennison’s ability to ride a bicycle.
“He’s an amazing athlete,” Erenstone said. “I do not know anyone who has used those pedals without falling over once.” Kennison got on the bicycle and rode off without falling, he said.
Kennison said the group hoped to arrive at Camp No Limits for the official opening late afternoon Tuesday. He was a camper there for seven years, but will return this year as head counselor to inspire children without limbs to test their limits.