Harry at the races.
Harry at the races.
Even if it worries his mother, Christopher "Harry" Birchmore has a need for speed - and it boosts his self-esteem.

The 10-year-old parishioner of St. Mary's Church in Granville has been driving dirt bikes since he was seven and racing at a motocross park in nearby Poultney, Vt., since last year.

"I get trophies," he said. "I get to go to the track with my friends."

Harry was recently diagnosed with dyslexia, a learning disability.

Trials and talents
"It's a lot harder for me to read than other kids," he explained.

His mother, Lisa, supplements his education at Granville Elementary School with homeschooling programs. She calls Harry's diagnosis "God's way of saying, 'You're not going to be good at everything.'" But her son excels at motor sports - he even quit more traditional sports like football and wrestling to focus his attention on biking - so she tries her best to suppress her nerves.

Rosary on hand
"I sit there and I have my rosaries in my pocket and I'm praying the whole time," she told The Evangelist. "I'm scared to death watching him."

Mrs. Birchmore goes to Mass the morning before a race to petition for her son's safety as he drives up to 30 miles per hour on machines weighing more than 100 pounds.

"I don't know what else I can do," she said.

Other children have broken their collarbones or ended up on crutches. Harry took one bad fall, but didn't break or even bruise anything. He always wears safety gear: racing boots, goggles, gloves, a chest protector, a kidney protector, a helmet, racing pants, long-sleeved shirts and a neck brace.

"He could get hurt doing anything," Mrs. Birchmore said. In fact, Harry has injured his head three times: once when his school-bus driver stopped short and two times in gym class.

On his bike, Harry said, "I don't fall very often." But he still prays before races for God to "keep me safe. I might hurt, like, my collarbone or my knee."

Moving forward
Harry has mastered several different classes (racing levels) and keeps moving up to more sophisticated bikes, learning about engines with his father, Christopher, along the way.

That's another reason Mrs. Birchmore has allowed the hobby to continue: "As scary as it is, he's really going to remember this time with his dad."

New equipment can cost hundreds of dollars; a new dirt bike can cost up to $6,000. The Birchmores tend to buy these items used and sell bikes whenever Harry moves up a level. Practicing at the track costs $35 a day, so he mostly rides at a friend's farm or around his neighborhood.

If Harry keeps moving up - he intends to ride into his 20s, at least - he could compete for cash. He said winning makes him feel "happy and good."

Wing and a prayer
Some of Harry's siblings are altar servers at St. Mary's; Mrs. Birchmore teaches baptismal preparation classes there. She often tells parents, "Everything you need to know about raising kids is in the Bible."

When anxiety about her son's safety takes over, Mrs. Birchmore thinks of the line from the book of Proverbs: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; on your own intelligence do not rely."