“What a great sense of independence it gave him!”
Tom Baker was the first child to have a Tomcat trike made for him.
In his early life, Tom was diagnosed with Angelman’s Syndrome and due to this, and curvature of his spine, he was confined to the home for long periods of time. When he did go outside, he would have to be accompanied or restrained because he had very little sense of danger, due to his learning difficulties. While his mum, Anne, did have a special needs trike in the garage, it wasn’t very suited to Tom’s needs, as he had very strong legs and little grasp of steering, meaning he would career off into bushes or the curb. Often, they would only make it about a hundred yards out the door before giving up for the day.
It was clear that Tom needed to be able to exercise in some way, as it would benefit both his mental and physical health to be out in the fresh air, using energy, but at the time, adapted trikes tended to be built in set sizes, with very few options and adaptabilities suited to individual needs. Specifically, Tom needed some sort of way for Anne, or another carer, to control the trike and keep Tom safe while he cycled.
One day, Bob – now Anne’s husband and Tomcat MD – disappeared with the trike in the garage and returned with a new steering system he had developed to adapt it. This steering system later became known as Carer Control™ and allowed Tom to cycle safely. Despite not being able to walk very far on his first day out on the trike, they went for over two miles, which was a huge achievement for him, and a proud day for mum!
The trike changed everything. Tom was now able to participate in activities like other children his age, and it was a great alternative to his wheelchair that allowed him to move and exercise.
“The Carer Control at the back of the trike was fantastic: he thought he was in control of the trike, when of course I was. What a great sense of independence it gave him!”
The exercise also had countless positive knock-on effects, improving his health, and sleeping patterns dramatically. Tom and Anne were able to go out for three or four miles at a time, cycling up and down the same Cotswold lanes that Anne did as a child. Upon fixing a mile-o-meter to the trike, they quickly got up to 350 miles!
Anne believes that the secret to the trike’s success lay in the process of custom-building. If no two children are the same, and one diagnosis can manifest in different ways, then there is little point in mass-standardisation. This was the consideration behind Tomcat – rather than creating a business to earn money, Bob wanted to be able to custom build trikes and introduce thousands of other children (and now adults) to the joys of cycling.
Tom died in his sleep at 23 years old. He was incredibly special and loved by all who knew him. He will be remembered as a wonderful, happy person.