ESCANABA - "I'm freeeeee!!!!!" yelled the gleeful young teen with a beaming smile as he rode his brand new custom-made bicycle across the sidewalk in front of his home and down the street to the corner and back again.
"I love it," said Jennifer Dubord, mother of 13-year-old Cameron Dubord. "I love that he can ride instead of having to sit at home and look out the window at all the kids in the neighborhood riding around on their bikes. Now he has one of his own."
Cameron, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, received the surprise of his young life when he returned from a recent trip to the Bay Cliff Health Camp and found the brand-new, custom-made bike built for him by his uncle, Chuck Dubord, waiting for him. Word of Cameron's new acquisition went swiftly around his neighborhood prior to his arrival and there was a delegation of well-wishers who had gathered to watch his reaction.
Cameron Dubord was inspired by the unique cobalt-blue skull design on a cap he obtained while attending Bay Cliff Health Camp and wanted to have the same design painted on his new custom-made bike. (Daily Press photo by Dorothy McKnight)
To make his nephew's custom creation, Chuck purchased three 10-speed pedal bicycles and used the back end and seat for the rear portion of the bike and welded the two front wheels onto the frame for better balance and added the handlebars. He selected a girl's frame so that Cameron wouldn't have a problem getting his leg over the bar. He said it took him about two days of working after he returned home from his job to complete the process.
Before this time, Cameron's experience with bike riding had proven to be too difficult for him to really enjoy.
"When he tried to ride a two-wheeler, he didn't have good enough balance to ride it and had an even harder time trying to stop," said Cameron's dad, Jeff.
"He hasn't tried to ride one in about two years. Now that he's got this new bike, he tells me, 'I'm outa here!' and away he goes. Now it's a problem keeping him at home. But at least he's not just sitting alone in his room watching TV or playing video games."
Not only is Cameron and his bike a regular feature in his neighborhood, he also enjoys riding to the nearby grocery store.
"He goes there just so that people can see the bike," said Jennifer. "He likes to sit on the table outside eating ice cream and listening to people talk about it."
But despite his new-found independence, Cameron does have his limits.
"He would love to take it to school, but I'm afraid it might get stolen," said Jennifer. "He would be just devastated." Cameron is a sixth-grader at the Escanaba Upper Elementary School.
The Dubords had looked at other alternatives to a two-wheeler for their son but the cost of purchasing one was too prohibitive.
"I knew Cameron has a problem with balance, but to buy one that would work for him would be very expensive," said Chuck. "Even those three-wheelers like elderly people ride are very expensive. So when Cameron's dad called me and told me they were trying to get him a bike, I said, 'I'll build him one.'" Chuck said it took him about a week to complete the project.
But that wasn't the end. When Cameron returned home from Bay Cliff, he showed off a cap designed with bright cobalt blue flaming skulls, the bike went back into the shop and the boy's other uncle, Nevin Naser, custom painted the bike to match the design in the cap.
"It's totally awesome," said Cameron as he straddled the bike and showed off the matching cap.
It did, however, take Cameron a little time to master the speed gears, according to Jeff. "He had a hard time changing gears at first, and kept taking off in high speed, but it wasn't long before he got the hang of it."
Cameron's new bike has not only given him a new sense of independence, but an additional revelation was a surprise bonus. Pedaling the bike has helped the teen to exercise his legs and strengthen them. This became evident when he became a little less reliant on the crutches he uses to help him walk.
"At first I thought about attaching a motor so he wouldn't have to pedal it, but the pedals have worked so much better and are better for him," said Chuck.
"Now he just attaches the crutches to the frame with a bungee cord and takes them with him," Jeff added.
When asked what he thought about his new bike, again the beaming smile as Cameron said, "My wish came true!"