Chandler community surprises special-needs girl with custom bicycle

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Leia took her new bicycle for a spin on Sunday. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Leia took her new bicycle for a spin on Sunday. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Leia is non-verbal, has Down syndrome and autism. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Leia is non-verbal, has Down syndrome and autism. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The Chandler community came together for a fundraiser and a huge surprise for a special-needs girl and her family.

Leia Fiorenza, 12, is non-verbal and has Down syndrome and autism. Her family was trying to raise $3,000 for a special bicycle called the Buddy Bike®, an alternative inline tandem bicycle that places the smaller rider in the front seat while the rear rider controls the steering.

"The benefit when you do have a non-verbal individual to get their wants and needs you have to visually see it and so that's why this bike is ideal because she's in front so if she signs, you know, all done, I'll still be in control of the bike," Michele Fiorenza, Leia's mother, said.

The Chandler Lions, with the help of the City of Chandler and the Chandler Police Department, organized a one-day bicycle obstacle course at Snedigar Park on Sunday afternoon to raise money for her family. The Lions also sold raffle baskets with all proceeds going toward the cost of the bike.

What the Fiorenzas didn't know was that the Chandler Lions and their partners had already purchased the bicycle for Leia. They unveiled the bicycle at the fundraiser and gave it to Leia.

Leia was able to take the bicycle for a spin with her father.

"This is a great surprise. It was wonderful. I wasn't expecting this at all and to have them have the bike already here ready to go for her, it was great," said Enzo Fiorenza, Leia's father.

Michele said the special bicycle will help Leia strengthen her core muscles, keep her safe and allow her to go on family bike rides.

"I'm beyond grateful for everyone who helped," Michele said. "We'll keep riding it and get her used to it because this is going to be great for her. I'm very excited to start riding with her."

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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