Heritage Middle School eighth-grader Anthony Stewart received a special gift March 20: his first bike.

Heritage Middle School eighth-grader Anthony Stewart received a special gift March 20: his first bike.

The 14-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, joined teacher Andy Habing's class in February. The small class has therapeutic activity each afternoon and students would ride bicycles when they could, three to four times a week.

But because of weakness in his legs, Stewart couldn't join his classmates, Habing said.

The first time the class took a trip, Stewart had to be driven, and that struck a chord with Habing.

"He has braces on both legs. He's never been on a bike, ridden a bike in his entire life," Habing said. "It was kind of the first time I realized how different he had to feel. He's been on the sidelines all three times (the class has ridden bicycles since February). He doesn't say anything about it, but I started wondering if we could find a recumbent bike for him."

Habing worked with one of the school district's physical therapists to find out what type of bike Stewart would need and then he began asking around at local bicycle shops to see if the school would be able to borrow one for the rest of the school year.

At roll:, Habing had better luck than he expected.

He was put in touch with a former employee, Lauren Lichtenauer, who had started a charity called Christopher's Promise that works with Athletes Helping Athletes to secure bicycles for children with disabilities.

"It was kind of blind luck that I ran into her, talked to her for awhile," Habing said.

Lichtenauer began Christopher's Promise last year after helping to secure a bike through Athletes Helping Athletes, the charitable arm of Road Runner Sports, for a boy she worked with while volunteering at a camp for children with disabilities.

Lichtenauer figured she could help people navigate the Athletes Helping Athletes grant process and also help find the right bicycles through her experience with cycling. She works through word-of-mouth referrals.

Anthony's bike, fittingly black and yellow for the Pittsburgh Steelers fan, is the 12th bike Lichtenauer has helped find. It would have cost $2,250 to purchase retail, she said.

Lichtenauer also works with groups to provide helmets, clothing and shoes for the children helped by Christopher's Promise.

"They're just awesome kids, and every kid we've given a bike to has had the same reaction where they're just thrilled," she said.

Stewart at first was speechless when surprised with his recumbent bicycle, which was waiting atop classroom tables when he returned with his classmates from lunch.

After taking a turn around the parking lot, his reaction was modest.

"I like it," Stewart told Habing.

His mother, Garnetta Livisay, was less reserved.

"I'm emotional because this is so exciting. I never thought this would happen," Livisay said. "Now I'm going to go and get a bike for myself so we can ride together."

Livisay, who was all smiles and said she had to hold back tears, said the work Habing and Lichtenauer did to get Stewart a bike was amazing.

"That is a God thing. This is nothing but God. This just doesn't happen," Livisay said. "It's just amazing."

Habing also was excited to finally see Stewart try out his new bike. He said he hopes the bike goes a long way in helping Stewart feel like he fits in with his classmates.

"It was very cool. It's just a very empowering thing for him," Habing said. "It's great how it all worked out."