‘ican Bike’ week-long summer camp in Holland strives to help kids with disabilities learn to ride
HOLLAND - Bike riding is a skill that is too often taken for granted. It’s something that most kids just do. But it’s also something that some kids just can’t do.
Kids with disabilities often can’t ride a bike independently, for example. Inspired by those children, iCan Shine, a national organization that strives to provide “quality learning opportunities in recreational activities for individuals with disabilities,” according to its website, developed a program called iCan Bike. The program will hold a camp August 5 – 9 at Holland Middle School. The camp Ls sSHFLfiFDOOy GHsLJnHG IRr NLGs ages 8 -18 with developmental and physical disabilities who have never been able to master riding a bike.
Stephanie DeSouza is the local director for the iCan Bike program.
“Bike riding is a rite of passage for many kids, and children with disabilities have a hard time mastering the skill,” DeSouza said. “Not being able to ride with their friends can really create barriers for them.”
The weeklong camp, which will take place August 5 – 9, will attempt to tear down those barriers. Each camper will be accompanied by two volunteers on the physically demanding (for the volunteer helpers) path to learning to ride independently. The campers start out on specially made bikes that include a roller on the back to help children balance. The bikes also have a protruding handle that the volunteers can grasp if they need to stabilize their rider.
(DFK rLGHr wLOO DWWHnG RnH RI fiYH, 75-minute sessions each day. The program, formerly called, “Lose the Training Wheels” is designed to SLOWLY transition the rider from dependence on the roller, handle and volunteer – also called “buddies” to total independent riding on a regular bike parents purchase from the store. Parents are encouraged to purchase that bike by the middle of camp.
“They’re on a bike the entire time,” DeSouza said of the riders. “They have the same buddy every day, so they can build a rapport with them.” Parents are required to stay on the sidelines – no matter what.
“There’s not a lot of coddling,” DeSouza said. “Parents stay off to the side and they get it. They just want their kids to ride so badly. They don’t mind letting someone else step in to the role of teacher.” DeSouza and the volunteers realize that falling could be part of the process, but don’t let learning process.
”When kids fall of the bike, we celebrate it, and they get right back on the bike,” DeSouza said. “Sometimes kids are so afraid of falling, and if they see blood, they can go into panic mode. But our philosophy is, get that kid back on that bike.”
Each session will have six riders,
it stop the meaning a maximum of 30 riders will participate during the week. That means that each iCan Bike session needs 12 volunteers – or 60 for the week. Not everybody is up to the physical task of becoming a volunteer, even if their heart is in the right place.
“It’s taxing physically,” DeSouza said of the job of volunteerL buddy. “They need to be in really good shape. A lot of volunteers last year were kids who played soccer or ran track.”
In addition to being physically able to keep up with their rider volunteers must be at least 16 years old. Requirements for the riders include being at least 8 years old and no more than 220 pounds. They must be able to walk without an assistive device and able to wHDr D SrRSHrOy fiWWHG ELNH KHOPHW. The camp also has technicians who adjust the bikes according to each rider’s abilities. DeSouza said adjustments have been made after as short a time span as 40 minutes.
Registration is open through July 15. To register or volunteer or for more information, visit icanshine.org.
Two volunteers assist an iCan Bike rider during the 2012 camp.