There’s nothing Brian Gilbert from Trikes NZ in Levin likes more than a good old Kiwi challenge to solve.
Dell and The Project have been recognising New Zealanders making a positive social impact in the community through the Change Maker initiative. Brian has been selected as this month’s winner.
The idea behind Trikes NZ began more than 25 years ago after staff from Kimberley psychopaedic hospital in Levin came to Brian’s well-known bike shop asking whether he could help patients with disabilities - to help them keep safely fit and exercisingse safely.
Using typical Kiwi ingenuity it became clear tricycles were the best options to use. Since then Brian has helped ‘hundreds’ of people, many children with disabilities or conditions, become mobile.
He specifically designs the trikes to fit each person’s body shape and legs.
"I don’t think two people have ever been the same. Each child is so different. This means I need to be adaptable and think outside the square. I’m always upfront with families and tell them about what I think can be done," he says. "But I’ll always have a go. And when we succeed we’ll celebrate and say - 'yes it works!"
Brian is constantly inspired by the people he helps. If you search for him on the internet you’ll find countless images of smiling children with their new trikes, surrounded by happy family members.
“We once went to Riccarton Mall where we met a Mum whose son was in a wheelchair. His face lit up when he tried the trike for the first time, and when his mum saw her son so happy she started to cry.”
“The best thing about what we do is how happy families become. Because the family can now go and do stuff together. People with disabilities can join their families and partners, and get out and be a part of life.”
For 11 years from 2001, Brian was New Zealand’s national paralympic coach, attending two Olympics, the Paralympics in Beijing, and 11 world championships with disabled athletes.
“The athletes are quite phenomenal and the camaraderie between everyone is amazing. The athletes can achieve so much - both physically and mentally.”
“Also when we Kiwis turn up at these competitions everyone comes over to see what we’re doing,” he says. “The mechanics from other countries always come and chew the fat with us. As they know how innovative Kiwis can be,” he says.
Brian admits the technology and engineering involved with the trikes keeps changing and evolving. He enjoys sharing ideas with others about what could work. He’ll often sit with ‘young ones’ to swap ideas.
“Every year we go to Germany, and we’re usually so impressed with what they are doing over in Europe. But I always think that looks great, but we Kiwis can do better.”
In the future, Brian is looking to send more trikes to Australia to help people over there. He says he’ll ‘never retire’ as he enjoys helping others too much but admits he now appreciates the help and ideas of ‘young ones’.
Right now, post lockdown, you’ll find him back travelling around New Zealand for his Trikes NZ roadshows. “People come up to us at these roadshows and we help them find the best option. They’ll say my son or daughter can’t do this, and we’ll find a solution.”
Brian points out it’s not just him, but a whole community that helps realise people’s dreams. But we can’t help but feel Brian’s classic Kiwi ingenuity has inspired so many across the country.
If you know someone else who goes that extra mile to support and shape a better future for their communities, nominate them here and they could be a winner of a brand new Dell XPS 13 laptop.
This article is brought to you by Dell