SPEARFISH — Hamsters USA, the international motorcycle group with big hearts, rolled into western South Dakota to make an impact for kids with disabilities — again.
For the past 14 years, Hamsters USA has raised and donated funds at their annual banquet giving back to the Black Hills, which many consider their second home. This year, the group raised $318,344, all of which will stay local.
This year’s event brings their cumulative total for 14 years to over $3.3 million in total dollars raised for LifeScape in Rapid City.
Their gifts help provide services to children in their Black Hills area homes and communities, delivered by LifeScape personnel who drive over 10,000 miles a month to provide services.
Additionally, in recognition of his incredible spirit, longstanding commitment to the motorcycle community, and especially for his dedication to the care of children in need, John McCarthy was presented with the 2019 Chrome Heart Award.
Arianna Blakemore, a 4-year-old from Sturgis, and her family, spoke at this year’s event. Jamie Miller gave birth to her daughter Arianna when she was 31 weeks pregnant. After spending two-and-a-half months in the NICU, Arianna went home on continuous oxygen.
While still in utero, she had been diagnosed with clubfoot. At the time of her release from the hospital, Arianna was diagnosed with arthrogryposis, a rare condition which contracts the joints, fixing them in one position. This can affect many joints, but for her, it affects her ankles, elbows, wrists and fingers.
Additionally, Arianna has been diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy and chronic lung disease. Arianna has had her legs casted 18 times and has had two different surgeries on each of her legs. It was through the castings that the family was first introduced to LifeScape. Since that time, she has started physical, occupational and speech therapy.
While primarily using a wheelchair for transportation, she has started to walk short distances on her own. She is also starting to talk more, and while it’s not always clear what she’s saying, she’s pretty vocal and makes her needs known. Her mom says, “Arianna is quite a handful when she wants to be, and all of the LifeScape team has always been amazing and calm with her. Arianna loves playing at therapy and is excited when she sees us drive up to the building.”
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