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Utah’s bike community comes together to help teen with autism achieve his goal

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FILE - Andrew Veldhuizen, 17, has been riding a bicycle for over a decade. Tuesday, the community got together and surprised him with a very special bike.

FILE - Andrew Veldhuizen, 17, has been riding a bicycle for over a decade. Tuesday, the community got together and surprised him with a very special bike.

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PLAIN CITY, Weber County — Andrew Veldhuizen has been riding a bicycle for more than a decade and is a member of the Fremont High School mountain biking team.

Veldhuizen has autism, and it creates challenges when he rides. The 17-year-old's goal is to compete with the team.

His father, Ryan Veldhuizen, said there is no doubt his son has a need for speed.

"He's fast,” he said with a laugh. “I’m constantly like, ‘Hey, you have to ride with me,’ or, ‘We’re riding together, you know? We're not racing!’"

Andrew Veldhuizen has been riding his favorite set of wheels — a 10-year-old bike.

But racing around has been challenging for him.

“From the knee down, his bones are turned out, so he can't just put the ball of his foot on the pedal,” Ryan Veldhuizen said. “He pedals with his heel."

The teen also has difficulty with balance and riding at slow speeds, so his dad took to Facebook to ask for suggestions on adjustments he could make to his son's current bike. The post was shared dozens of times, eventually catching the eye of Dusty Ott with Hubsessed Cycle Works.

“(Andrew and Ryan Veldhuizen) seem like a really good match to have the group help and chip in and potentially get him something new,” Ott said.

After setting up a GoFundMe page and receiving dozens of donations, Utah's mountain biking community put together a brand new bike for Andrew Veldhuizen.

Ott was approached by Spry Cycles in American Fork, which donated the parts to build Andrew Veldhuizen a custom bicycle worth $5,000.

"It means the world that the community was able to really reach out and just give this kid something that would really, really help him,” Ott said.

On Tuesday night at Fremont High School, Andrew Veldhuizen was surprised with the new bike and had no problem claiming it as his own. When asked whose bike he had, he laughingly shouted, "Mine!”

Ryan Veldhuizen said his son would be riding the new bike for practice this summer and eventually competing with it in the fall.

"Thank you so much, guys," Andrew Veldhuizen said while riding his new bike inside the school. "Thank you."