augusta free press news

Austin’s Bike: Waynesboro YMCA makes autistic teen’s dream come true

A red bike. That’s what Austin Sprouse would talk about when you asked him what he dreamed of. A red bike that he could call his own.

But it wasn’t as easy as just going to the store and buying him a red bike.

Sprouse, 16, is autistic, and because of his size, he needed an adult-sized tricycle so that he could ride safely.

His mother, Diane Grigsby, ran into Jeff Fife, the executive director of the Waynesboro YMCA, recently, and they got to talking about what it would mean to Austin for him to have a bike of his own.

“This means the world for Austin,” Grigsby said Wednesday, after the Y had presented her son with a shiny, brand-new red bike of his own.

“His brothers and sister, they ride their bikes, but he didn’t have one. Now he has a bike, and he can explore many options, and this is also going to be a big factor in his weight loss. Him having this bike means the world to him and to all of us,” Grigsby said.

Sprouse is involved with the Y’s children with disabilities program, Everybody Plays, Everybody Wins, which is offered in conjunction with James Madison University.

A JMU student gave him instructions on how to ride his new bike, with his mother watching along with Fife and two YMCA members, Jeff Hoke and Tom Garber, looking on.

Hoke donated the money to buy the bike, and Garber built it.

“It seemed like a really good cause. I was on Facebook, and (Fife) had just put it on there, and I sent him a private message and said, I’ll take care of it, and it just went from there. I was glad to help out,” Hoke said.

“It’s pretty fun watching Austin ride around the parking lot,” Garber said.

“It’s the power of impact. When people that are generous like this and are involved in the Y and have had the Y touch their own lives, and then they in turn reach out and help others, that’s what makes this community magical, that’s what makes this Y magical. And that’s what makes this moment special, being able to do something special for a young man that just wanted an opportunity to ride a bike, and now he gets it,” Fife said.

– Story by Chris Graham