Nine-year-old Madalyn Pearce had the kind of contagious smile on her face you have to see to understand as she took her first bike for a spin Tuesday night inside the Veterans of Foreign Wars Building in Rock Hill.
Madalyn was born with only part of her cerebellum, the part of the brain that affects her balance and motor skills.
On Tuesday, a group of retired Marines gave Madalyn a large tricycle that props her up and that she can strap into to safely ride around her neighborhood.
"I've been excited at school," Madalyn said in the hours leading up to receiving her bike.
"I need to put a little bell on it," she said during that inaugural ride.
The Olde English Leathernecks, a group of 57 retired Marines, raised more than $1,100 to buy Madalyn the bike.
Wayne Broach, paymaster in the detachment, said the group was inspired to help disabled children get tricycles after seeing the bikes awarded to children at a convention last year.
"If you had seen these children, your heart just breaks, and you wouldn't even think about not helping them if you had the opportunity," he said. "That's basically where it was born from."
Marine Corps detachments throughout the state help children get the bikes through a program called HOT Trikes. Typically, they go to children who need to pedal with their hands and cost about $250 each, said Lane Parker, commandant for the James L. Hammons detachment in Aiken, who helps coordinate the effort.
The program provided more than 60 tricycles statewide last year, Parker said.
Vicki Pearce, Madalyn's mom, said she's glad the local Marines went the extra mile to raise the money for Madalyn.
"It's really surprising that they would do that," she said. "It was really nice of them."
Madalyn tried to ride her little brother's bike but took a turn too fast and ended up chipping a tooth.
She tried riding a tricycle similar to the one she just received at two different camps for children with disabilities and was able to ride them, her mother said.
Madalyn just learned to walk on her own without a walker in the past year and a half. She still uses crutches at school.
When asked how often she plans to ride her new bike, a beaming Madalyn replied, "A thousand times."