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Cyclists with disabilities take inspirational trek along canal

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 July 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – John Robinson, left, and his friend Doug Hamlin, right, ride adaptive use bicycles along West Bank Street in Albion this morning.

ALBION – John Robinson is riding the length of the canal for the second straight year, showing people that disabled residents can achieve big dreams, too.

Robinson was born without full arms and legs. He is riding an adaptive bicycle from Tonawanda to Albany. He passed through Orleans County today, and addressed The Arc of Orleans County and its supporters this morning at the Meals on Wheels site on East Academy Street.

John Robinson addresses supporters of The Arc of Orleans County this morning in Albion.

Robinson’s mission: job opportunities for disabled residents. Whether in sheltered workshops or other jobs in the community, Robinson said people with developmental disabilities have skills that can be used in the workplace.

“This is all about employment,” Robinson said this morning in Albion, when he stopped for a reception outside the Albion Academy apartment complex on East Academy Street. That site also hosts the Meals on Wheels, Nutri-fair and Arc programs.

John Robinson leads the riders along the Erie Canal, just west of Main Street.

Robinson and his entourage were led to the site by a police escort. He remembers when he was in Albion a year ago, feeling dehydrated from the humidity.

“I was tired and frustrated, and the people here waited an hour in the hot sun for us,” Robinson said.

The Albion reception was a big boost to cyclists, and Robinson shares that story during his motivational speeches.

Robinson received commendation certificates today from State Assemblyman Steve Hawley and County Legislator Bill Eick. The Legislature gave Robinson “A Special Inspiration Award.”

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley praised Robinson for helping community members to appreciate the contributions of people with disabilities.

Robinson left Tonawanda on Monday and will be traveling more than 350 miles until the ride culminates on July 11 in Albany. Robinson, who lives just outside Albany, will join a crowd expected at 1,200 people for a celebration at the state capitol. It is NYSARC’s 65th anniversary as an organization serving people with disabilities.

Jayson White, NYSARC’s director of communications, is riding with Robinson for the journey along the canal.

“This is about celebrating the abilities within all of us,” White said.

Robinson poses for a picture with Jonathan Doherty of Albion, a member of the Arc’s Self Advocacy All-Stars.

Robinson is joined for the trip by his wife and two children. His friend Doug Hamlin also is riding along in an adaptive use bicycle. Hamlin, a 28-year veteran of the software industry, is a quadriplegic as a result of an accident.

“We’ve really enjoyed the canal and been inspired by people of differing abilities along the way,” Hamlin said.

The group has about 12 cyclists for the full trip, but Hamlin said many riders will join them for part of the way, perhaps for an hour or most of a day.

“This is getting bigger and we hope to make it bigger every year,” Hamlin said.