A Winnipeg couple is hoping to recover a special bicycle that has changed the life of their 11-year-old autistic son, but was stolen from their Elmwood backyard last week.
Cole Flett says her son, Kieran Huculak, has the Asperger form of autism and generally kept to himself until he received the three-wheeled custom-made red tricycle as a gift last summer.
"It changed his whole world … he got on the bike and quickly learned how to ride it — my husband helped him with that — and he was all over the place," Flett told CBC News on Tuesday.
"He was engaging and played with his three sisters, which is not something that he would do before."
Then on April 22, Flett and her husband, along with Kieran and his three sisters, went outside their home on Washington Avenue to get their bikes, which were hidden in their backyard.
"Kieran couldn't find his," Flett said. "So my husband went to the backyard and sure enough, it was gone."
Kieran needed a specially designed bike because he has balance and motor-related issues that prevented him from riding a standard bicycle, his mother said.
'This was a big deal'
Flett said the custom bicycle came from a friend whose son also has autism.
"It was a great summer. He rode his bike to the kiddie pool, he rode his bike up and down the street with his sisters," she said.
"He was laughing — he was belly laughing, which, again, we had not heard very often from Kieran before. So this is a big deal."
Upon learning his bike was missing, Kieran stood in the yard and appeared confused, said his mother, who had a different reaction.
"I cried instantly because I have fresh in my mind what that bike did for him last year," she said.
"He was so proud and he was so happy, and he [had] the freedom and the mobility, and he was playing and he was laughing, and he was all of these things that we hadn't seen him do. It was gone. For me, as his mother, it just broke my heart."
Flett estimates the bike costs a few hundred dollars, but the challenge would be in finding a similar bicycle because it was made especially for a child with autism.
She said she hopes that someone will find Kieran's bike, or that the person who took it will return it.
A family friend has posted a photograph of Kieran's bike on Facebook on April 24, and it has since been shared more than 1,200 times as of Tuesday evening.
"I'm so grateful for everyone who's shared it because I want this freedom for him," she said.
"To be his mother and see what has come up against him all these years, and then to see such pure joy in him, and then just have it taken away from him, it just breaks your heart."