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Girl’s Gift To Disabled Kids Becoming Holiday Tradition

Riley Christensen and Tommy Antonson

Riley Christensen and Tommy Antonson helped raise money to provide adaptive bikes as Christmas gifts for special needs kids in the western suburbs. (Credit: CBS)

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ST. CHARLES, Ill. (CBS) — Christmas came a day early in West suburban Geneva and St. Charles for some kids with special needs. They were surprised with adaptive bikes, thanks to the kindness of a little girl.

Last year, Riley Christensen raised money to buy adaptive bikes for 3 kids with special needs. As CBS 2’s Mai Maritinez reports, this year, Riley was back at it, with the help of a few of her friends.

Riley Christensen and Tommy Antonson were welcomed with a warm round of applause at Geneva’s Marklund, a home for people with special needs.

While the applause was nice, the smiles of the residents really said it all as they looked at their brand new adaptive bike.

Christensen said she couldn’t be happier to be giving one bike that will help so many people.

“When people can’t walk it’s probably the best present for them to be able to move around,” she explained.

This year, Riley was joined by Tommy because his little sister Rosie was one of the children who received an adaptive bike from Riley last year.

Tommy was so moved by Riley’s generosity, that he wanted to help raise money for her cause this year.

“I sold the little dum-dum suckers for 25-cents each and raised over $1600,” he said beaming with pride.

That $1,600 — combined with thousands more raised by Riley friends at Haines Middle School — was enough to buy three adaptive bikes, including one for 6-year-old Emily Duff who has cerebral palsy.

Emily was so excited when she realized the bike she had been staring at was hers. She says the best part about her new bike is the bell, which she proudly rang by herself.

Emily’s mother, Elizabeth Duff, was moved to tears by the gift because she says it means independence for her daughter.

“It means she can keep up with regular kindergarten kids. It means she can get point A to point B safely and just be a kid and not be a kid with a disability,” explained Duff.

For the final delivery, the kids headed to St. Charles, braving the cold and snow, but they didn’t mind at all once Teddy Draftz and his mother, Ginny, came to the door.

The sight of her son on his first bike brought Ginny Draftz to tears as did knowing complete strangers were responsible for the gift. “They really gave of themselves and they’ve given Teddy an amazing opportunity and gift for being outside which is where his family loves to be,” she said.

The kids say knowing that is thanks enough. Little Tommy says it’s the best Christmas present, and he has advice for anyone who is moved by what he and Riley and their friends have done.

“Pay it forward to help someone else,” he said.

While the kids get a lot of the credit here, there are some unsung heroes, including their parents and the people at The Bike Rack in St. Charles. They’re the ones who provide the bikes and adjust them for all the kids who receive them.

Those bikes cost between $3,000 and $4,000 each. Riley and her friends hope to give away 3 more next year. Click here to donate or to learn more about the program.