WHEN asked what he likes best about his Honda TRX 90X four-wheel motorbike Oke Penny replies with a cheeky grin, doing skids and donuts.
It’s a response you could expect from most six-year-old boys.
But for Oke it means so much more.
The Narrogin youngster was born with spina bifida, a condition in which a baby’s spinal cord fails to develop normally in the womb.
For Oke walking is a challenge, let alone riding a bike.
But his parents, Narrogin farmers Tom and Donna Penny and older brothers Damon, Bayleigh and Cadel, have been determined Oke will lead as normal a life as possible doing whatever is going in the family unit at the time.
Bike riding is in their genes with grandfather Darryl a former competitive cyclist, Tom and his brother Bruce dirt bike enthusiasts and Cadel even named after Australian cycling legend and Tour de France winner Cadel Evans.
Donna said Oke shared their love of bikes but was always a bit nervous around them.
“He grew up watching Nitro Circus on television and had a fascination with bikes but didn’t like to get too close to them,” Donna said.
Then one day last year came a call that would change Oke’s life.
The Tom Bowen Legacy Trust Fund (TBLTF), established in 2004 in honour of the early work of Bowen therapy practitioner Tom Bowen in treating children with disabilities, uses donations from Bowen practitioners and the general public to provide electronic communication and mobility aids to children in need.
Employee and former Narrogin resident Tanya Pfitzner asked her brother Daryl Kilpatrick, who still lives in the town, if he knew of anyone in his region that might be a worthy recipient and Oke immediately came to mind.
Donna said the initial approach from South Australian based-TBLTF was to supply Oke with an electric wheelchair.
“He already had a perfectly good manual wheelchair and we wanted him to stay with that so he would remain physically active through wheeling (propelling) himself,” Donna said.
“So we suggested a four-wheel motorbike which was in keeping with something electric and the Tom Bowen group thought that was a great idea.”
Sourcing a four-wheel motorbike was the easy bit, getting one that Oke could handle was the tricky part and that is where the team at Perkins Machinery Narrogin stepped in.
Vanessa Perkins, daughter-in-law of dealer principal Geoff Perkins took up the challenge.
“The Pennys are long-time clients of our company and I thought there had to be a way we could modify a bike for Oke,” Vanessa said.
“I discussed it with Geoff and he reckoned between he and the workshop staff they could come up with a solution.”
Perkins Machinery part funded the bike in conjunction with TBLTF and completed the conversion.
“I lost a fair bit of sleep over it, but it turned out to be easier than I thought,” Geoff said.
“The bike is technically not meant for under 10s so we modified the speed from a maximum of 40-50km/hr to 6-8km/hr, just above walking speed and put an extension on the gear stick which we made here in our workshop.
“The result is one happy little boy on a very reliable Honda bike and that has been a great thing for us all to be a part of.”
Donna said it had made a huge difference to Oke and the family’s life.
“He has his walking frame and wheelchair for around the house but before if we were going over to the shearing shed or around the farm we used to wheel Oke in an old Bunnings trolley,” she said.
“Now he can ride his bike and is able to keep up with us all and we don’t have to push him.”