Bill Buley, Associated Press
Bejay Brown and Gary Dagastine guide Kaylynn Brown on her new hand-crank tricycle as her father, Matt Brown, watches. Kaylynn suffers from spina bifida.<BR>

POST FALLS, Idaho — With all her strength, with her teeth clenched, Kaylynn Brown pushed on the hand crank in front of her.

As she did, the trike the 3-year-old was sitting on rolled forward a few inches.

And as she pushed again with her hands and arms, the three-wheeler moved farther and faster on the pavement.

Delighted, Kaylynn looked up and grinned at her mother and father.

"Look at me, Mom," she said happily on a sunny day last week.

"Good job," answered her mom, Bejay Brown.

As Kaylynn continued to use the hand-powered trike, Gary Dagastine smiled as he watched her.

"It's not going to take her long to be flying down the road," he said.

The Post Falls man made the trike for Kaylynn after meeting her recently during a gathering of the disabilities group at Real Life Ministries.

He was there to demonstrate recumbent cycles — wider seats, some with three wheels, hand or feet powered — and explain how easy, fun and comfortable they are to ride.

After talking with Kaylynn, who suffers from spina bifida, a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its coverings, he became determined to help her.

"I don't know why that little gal got to me so much," said Dagastine, a 32-year veteran with the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department.

Because of her disease, Kaylynn is unable to use her legs and gets around at her Post Falls home in a small wheelchair.

Dagastine went to thrift stores, bought several used, smaller bikes and took on his mission in his workshop at home.

After a month of trial and error, he had what he wanted, a handcycle a little girl could use, complete with her name on the backrest. The seat is adjustable, and the brakes work by pulling back on the hand crank. It should last for several years, Dagastine said, and allow her more freedom.

"She needs to be a regular kid," he said. "She needs to go play with kids."

Kaylynn plans to do exactly that with her older sister and brother

"When Charmaine and Joshua go outside and play, I can go with them," she said shortly after Dagastine presented her with the trike.

Her father, Matt Brown, was happy for his youngest daughter.

"It would be really neat for her to ride with brother and sister," he said, adding he'll go riding with her, too.

"Dad is going to become a triathlete trying to keep up with her," Gary said.

Dagastine became a believer in recumbent bikes and trikes nearly 10 years ago after seeing them at a show in Spokane. His wife, Beth, suffers from multiple sclerosis, but a recumbent gave her a chance to exercise and stay positive. Dagastine went on to establish his own business, Northwest Recumbent Cycles.

"My self-esteem went sky high after riding one," Beth said. "I loved it and Gary saw the potential that it could help more people."

Beth, an advocate for those with MS, said staying active is critical.

"You don't need to just sit because you're disabled," she said. "You can get out and do things."

Kaylynn proved that by powering her way around the parking lot.

"She likes it," her mom said. "It's more mobility. She doesn't have to be in a wheelchair all the time. It's awesome. It's like dream come true, basically."

Beth beamed as Kaylynn rolled past.

"We thought she was strong before in that little wheelchair," she said. "Now look at her."

Dagastine, a man of few words, said simply, "I just want to cry."