Wheels to Succeed Keeps Rolling: Jairo Alvarez’s Legacy Continues
When you hear the phrase, “as easy as riding a bike”, you probably don’t think of the children with physical disabilities who have a hard time achieving this goal. A specially-adapted bike can cost from $600 to $6,000, so it’s often beyond the reach of families who are already stretching their budgets. In 2007, Baton Rouge physical therapist and avid cyclist Ashley Leach and her husband, Darron, launched Wheels to Succeed, a program to provide adapted bikes to children with disabilities. Eleven years later, Wheels to Succeed keeps rolling, and Jairo Alvarez’s legacy continues.
A program of McMains Children’s Developmental Center, Wheels to Succeed sponsors several events throughout the year to raise money and awareness. To date, 152 adapted bikes have been purchased and given to deserving children.
An adapted bike is customized to the needs of the child, and usually features three wheels. A recent Wheels to Succeed bike recipient, 17-year-old Emily Thompson, needed a raised seat and handlebars, and both steering and a handle in the back in the event she needs a little help.
“Emily loves to be around the other kids in the neighborhood, “ explained Emily’s mother, Stephanie Thompson. “Kinley, Emily’s sister, and the rest of the neighborhood kids are always on their bikes, flickers, and scooters, but Emily always had to sit out because she did not have a bike to accommodate her special needs.”
A major fundraiser for the cause is the annual No Such Thing As Impossible Bike Ride, established by Jairo Alvarez, the founder of Alvarez Construction Company. Every spring, cyclists ride from 10 to 75 miles through the hills of Louisiana’s St. Francisville, raising money every mile along the way. The Kids Fun Ride is held the same day, and children of all abilities have the chance to ride their bikes together. So far, the event that Jairo began has raised tens of thousands of dollars.
More than a local homebuilder and business owner, Jairo was an avid cyclist. The No Such Thing As Impossible Bike Ride is a reflection of his own battle. Jairo, a cycling gold medalist in the Senior Olympics, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Just 95 days after undergoing extensive surgery, he competed in and won a bike race. His autobiography, ”No Such Things As Impossible” shares his heartfelt message of overcoming adversity. Although Jairo lost his cancer battle in 2014, his mission has been kept alive through his family. His son, Sebastian Alvarez, a McMains Children’s Developmental Center board member, has seen to it that the bike ride remains an annual event.
Our company continues to grow and expand our community outreach. We encourage our homeowners, team members, friends, and neighbors to volunteer in the community—give your time, share your skills, and make a difference. You never know where it might lead!