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Hand-cycling across China for spinal cord injury awareness

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Imagine riding your bicycle through the endless mountains of Yunnan and south central China, up across the Yangtze and then straight north through the plains to Beijing. Now imagine doing it on a recumbent bike using your arms and shoulders instead of your legs. That is the goal of the small team of dedicated hand-cyclists on a mission to raise the profile and erase social stigmas for paraplegics, quadriplegics, those with spinal ailments and amputees.

The more than 5,600-kilometer trip, dubbed the Yunnan-Beijing Dream Ride (手摇有梦), is an effort spearheaded by not-for-profit Krankin' Thru China. The group was originally formed by disabled athlete Domonic Corradin and long-time China resident Joshua Dominick. Their stated goal is to "bring adaptive sports to China, and with it, an active healthier lifestyle for people with disabilities...focusing on individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCI)."

Onstage send-off at Dai Show in Xishuangbanna
Onstage send-off at Dai Show in Xishuangbanna

And so this April 11, Corradin, Dominick and their colleagues Pan Yifei (潘逸飞) and Wang Feng (王丰), set out from Xishuangbanna. They were given a special send-off by ride sponsor Wanda (万达) at a live performance of Dai Show. All of the riders were introduced on stage and their journey was explained before receiving an enormous round of applause.

They plan to spend 110 days on the road together, staying off of major highways when possible and engaging with locals along the way to the nation's capital. During each stop, the riders will focus on raising awareness and pushing for change, whether it be explaining the needs of wheelchair-bound people, or promoting more active lifestyles in the disabled communities they encounter. According to Dominick:

There are quite a few organizations already doing outreach [nationwide] as far as ramps and bathroom accessibility. So we're focusing more on getting out and getting active. We're creating awareness in society [at large] and encouraging the disabled to express their needs...how they need to be aware of the importance of promoting accessible buildings and environments.

Meeting with patients and staff at Kunming Tongren Hospital
Meeting with patients and staff at Kunming Tongren Hospital

As they move through China, the group will also document the stories of disabled people they meet, engage with local media and, when time allows, explore and record the little-known cultural treasures they chance upon. During their quick, one-day stay in Kunming, the guys from Krankin' Thru China organized a fairly hectic schedule, perhaps emblematic of what their future 'rest' days will entail.

On the morning of April 27, they met with doctors from the spinal cord injury department at Tongren Hospital, and then held a question and answer session with the press at the Nanya Shopping Center. Next up was spending the entire evening engaging with university students and professors at University Town in Chenggong.

The following morning they were on the road and heading northeast on their 27-speed hand-cycles toward the waterfalls and gorges of Xingyi (兴义) in Guizhou. The hand-crank bikes, explained Dominick from the road, are specially designed to provide comfort to those suffering from SCI, with extra support for the lower back and abdominal areas.

The bikes are also part of the overall Krankin' Thru China message, a visual aid showing disabled people in wheelchairs that fitness and exercise — long-distance travel even — is not outside their grasp. As he peddled away from the Spring City, we asked Dominick via WeChat what would change if he were in responsible for Chinese policy regarding the disabled. "If I were in charge...things would be very difficult for a lot of people because I'm very opinionated," he said, going on to explain:

I think the biggest problem is that policy isn't focused on the day-to-day lives and consistent improvement of the disabled community. There are big events...but they are quite superficial. I would probably create activity centers that are actually interesting for people, and ensure that they are getting what they want and need, as opposed to doing something that looks good for publicity.

If all goes to plan, the Yunnan-Beijing Dream Ride will cover more terrain than any previous hand-cycling endeavor of its kind. Krankin' Thru China hopes to set a Guinness Book world record when they roll into Beijing this summer, another move to raise awareness, both nationally and overseas, for their worthwhile and much-needed cause.

If you would like to help out with Krankin' Thru China or otherwise provide support, please get in touch with the good people at public relations firm SPRG. They are donating their time to provide logistical support and coordination for the Yunnan-Beijing Dream Ride. They can be reached by contacting Monica via email at monica.qu@sprg.com.cn or by calling her directly at 18515866916. You can also join sections of the Yunnan-Beijing Dream Ride by clicking over to their website.

Images: Krankin' Thru China

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Really impressive effort on all fronts.


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