Born to be wild
Paralyzed from the waist down since birth, 7-year-old Dennis Bedal of White City dreams of not only taking his first steps, but of one day riding his very own Harley — and both of those things could happen for the second-grader in coming weeks if things go right.
The benefactor for this year’s May 18 Bikers Have Heart Yahtzee Run — hosted by D&S Harley — was already a huge fan of motorcycles and counts a slew of bikers as part of his family.
Sitting on a couch next to his mom Thursday morning, Dennis inspected his brand-new motorcycle helmet and rolled his eyes as she talked about his bravery and tenacity.
Slipping the helmet on Dennis, Misty Jackson carefully avoided placing any pressure on a shunt at the back of his head and smiled as he talked about the upcoming event.
Born with hydrocephalus and spina bifida, the freckle-faced boy wasn’t expected to survive past birth, much less walk, Jackson said.
After undergoing seven surgeries — most recently an untethering procedure and another to straighten his left leg — Dennis could soon trade his wheelchair for a walking device.
Jackson said doctors initially told her that Dennis would not be able to use a walking device. Her son, however, has spent his life proving doctors wrong.
“He wasn’t supposed to survive, and here he is. He was supposed to have learning disabilities, and he’s advanced in every subject. He’s in second grade and reads on a fifth-grade level,” she said.
“Everything they’ve said he couldn’t do, he’s done. We were told he couldn’t use an RGO (walking device), and now they’re saying he has the mobility and strength in his leg and that they think he’ll be able to use one.”
Jackson said the Yahtzee run has given the family something positive to focus on during recent surgeries.
Attracting between 200 and 400 riders most years, the run has raised more than a quarter-million dollars since it began in 2001.
Kim O’Toole, who owns D&S Harley with her sisters, said it took a mere flash of the second-grader’s sly grin for her to realize that he would be the focus of this year’s ride.
“We were approached about helping them get a wheelchair ramp built for his family’s home, and as soon as I met Dennis I just knew. We have to help this family,” O’Toole said.
“He’s an amazing kid. We’re still helping figure out the ramp, but with the ride we knew we could do so much more.”
Eager to see hundreds of bikers turn out for “his” event next month, Dennis plans to show up in his new helmet and a leather biker vest. With help from a special belt, he’ll get to tag along for part of the ride.
“He’ll get to do at least a portion of the ride, we’ll see how he does,” Jackson said, pretending to ignore another dramatic eye roll from her son.
“It will be fun for him to even get to do part of it, and I know everybody wants to see him,” she said. “Everyone loves him on social media and at school. After the ride, we’re going to meet even more people to be part of our family.
“I think what’s so awesome is that here are all these big, burly, rough-looking guys that have the biggest hearts,” she added. “Bikers are amazing, and Dennis loves all his adopted uncles. He’s all about the bikes, so to be able to be a part of this is amazing.”
With a wide grin, Dennis said, “I’m gonna ride a Harley when I get older. First, I’m gonna walk, and then I’m gonna have my own Harley.”
Donations can be made online at https://bit.ly/2Kks0yM and https://bit.ly/2U2vZzH.
Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org