At the Boise Bike Project Saturday children will be getting free bicycles. That’s not unusual, that’s what the Bike Project does. But this time some of the kids getting the bikes were passengers in a car that hit - and severely injured - a boy only five-years old. And it was the mother of that boy who asked that these kids get bikes.
Here’s the part you may have heard about. This past September a 5-year-old Boise boy named Maximo was riding his bike home from kindergarten with his dad when he was hit by a minivan.
“He had two collapsed lungs, bruises on his heart and lungs, he had bilateral rib fractures, pelvis fracture, femur and tib-fib in his left leg were both broken,” Maximo’s mom Courtney Wyatt says. “And then about 15 percent of his body was either second or third degree burns from a combination of road rash and heat from being pinned under the front end of the van.”
Maximo just got out of the hospital last week. Most of his injuries are healing well but even with the skin grafts Wyatt says the burn scars will stay with him for life.
You may also have heard that the woman driving the van that hit Max was a refugee from Rwanda who had young kids in the car with her. With anti-refugee sentiments simmering in parts of Idaho and around the country, some people had some unpleasant things to say about the driver. But Courtney Wyatt didn’t share those sentiments.
“Those first few weeks that we were in the hospital with Max . . so you go through the whole range of emotion,” Wyatt says. “And there was anger at times. But, I found myself trying to put myself in her shoes. Back in September when this happened I remember thinking, ‘I love our country. I think it’s amazing that we live in this wonderful place where we can help other people who are faced with atrocities in their homelands, things we don’t even imagine, things we don’t have to worry about here. And it can’t be easy for them to leave their life and what they know and come here and try to integrate into our society where we rely on vehicles to get everywhere.’ I just didn’t see it being her fault, you know.”
So when the Boise Police Department and the Boise Bike Project offered to give Max a new bike, Courtney and husband Joe Wyatt had a different idea. They suggested the Bike Project give bikes to the children of the woman who hit their son.
“I think it stems from wanting them to know that Max is ok,” Courtney Wyatt says. “If I had been in a car and had my kid witness a horrific crash like that, I’d be worried about what my kid was going through emotionally. And for them to see each other and ride bikes together would be a good way to let that kid know it’s ok, both kids that were in the car.”
Saturday from 10:00 – 2:00 is the Boise Bike Project’s annual Christmas Kids Bike Giveaway. Nearly 400 people will get free bikes. The Wyatts will be there. The woman who hit Max won’t. The Bike Project’s director who’s been arranging this, says she won’t get in a car since the accident. But her kids will be there.
“She has seven children, the oldest of which I understand is going to BSU,” Wyatt says. “And so he’s going to come down, I think, with the kids. And they’re all getting bikes, which is amazing, what they do there at Boise Bike Project. So we’re going to bring Max down there and have him go through the safety course and just see where it goes. Hopefully we get a chance to meet them and see them and talk to them. And I would just like to give them hugs.”
Courtney Wyatt says her family supports Boise’s international community, but she says she’s not trying to send a message about refugee issues. She says meeting the kids who were in the car when her son was hit, and making sure their family has bikes is just part of the healing process for her family.
Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam
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