iCan Bike Camp Brings Tears to Parents’ Eyes

In every child’s life, there’s that special moment when they wish they could learn to ride their “big kid bike” for the first time. This summer, through a partnership with I Can Shine, Friendship Circle has granted the wish of riding a bike without training wheels come true for over 70 children. The name of the summer program? iCan Bike.

This five day bike clinic is open to children and young adults with special needs, who are taught, helped and encouraged by volunteers. On Day One, a child is paired with one or two new friends, and a starter bike that has been specially adapted for children with a variety of different needs to learn on. Based on their progress each child is upgraded to new bikes throughout the week, as he or she works toward learning how to ride their very own bikes without assistance. With the help of volunteers, these children experience that special, goosebump-evoking moment where they go from thinking that they can’t do it, to happily shouting, “look at me! I can do it!”

Doubling Capacity

For the past two years we have been very fortunate to receive a grant from the Autism Alliance of Michigan to help cover the costs of one week of iCan Bike Camp. This year thanks to a special grant from Howard and Iris Rosen Friendship Circle was able to extend this year’s program to two weeks. Five different time slots per week with up to eight participants in each time slot. Thanks to the grant Friendship Circle was able to double the amount of participants able to attend the iCan Bike program.

Watching the proud parents happily taking photos and videos of their child as they independently bike laps outside on a summer afternoon is a breathtaking moment that we hope many more can experience next year during the 2015 iCan Bike Camp. Here are some individual experiences that we would like to share with you.

Logan

In his first program with Friendship Circle, Logan easily progressed through his earlier upgrades during his session at iCan Bike Camp before finally facing a challenge with his last training bike.

Sitting on his upgrade outside, Logan began to cry as he shouted, “I can’t do it! I can’t do it!” When his mom asked him to wheel his bike over to her, so that she could give him some water to drink, Logan began to pedal towards her without realizing. A moment later, the whole parking lot could hear his ecstatic cries at his realization: I’m doing it! Look at me, mommy! I’m doing it! It wasn’t long until he was zooming around on his own bike not wanting to stop.

Logan’s mother, Debbie, was so ecstatic about Logan’s progress. Having visited Friendship Circle in the spring, Logan’s parents decided they would wait until fall to enroll him into more programs. But that didn’t stop them from enrolling Logan into this year’s iCan Bike Camp. “We really had high hopes that we would be able to have him up on two wheels, based on what we had read and the success rate,” said Debbie, “We had a hard time teaching him ourselves. We’ve been amazed by what they’ve been able to do, and the equipment they have available for him to learn on. The volunteers have really been phenomenal, as well as the non-volunteers.”

Logan and his parents had such a great experience from this program, and have really enjoyed getting to know the other parents and their children, and watching them succeed as well.

Joshua

Having participated in Friendship Circle’s basketball and floor hockey programs, Joshua is no stranger to all that Friendship Circle has to offer. Throughout his whole session, Joshua easily adjusted to each bike upgrade and was able to start, ride and stop his very own bike with ease. So it was a surprise to find out that this hadn’t been the case in the past.

“Before the program, he didn’t want to go anywhere near his bike–he had a fear of falling off,” said Joshua’s father, Alan. “He wouldn’t get on the bike for more than a couple minutes, and only if someone was physically guiding it for him. And now he seems to have developed a love for it.” Watching him breeze by with ease, and racing the other children on their own bikes, brought tears to his mom’s eyes.

“It’s amazing. The progress is amazing,” said Sharyn, Joshua’s mom. “And the program–the way they do this and the way they do the progression… from the start, to getting them on… from the rollers, to the two wheels… from having the handles, to taking the handles off–it’s just been amazing. Watching him yesterday get onto his own bike… I had tears in my eyes. It was just amazing.”

Joshua can’t wait to bike away the rest of his summer, and hopes to start off with biking at some parks that are close to his home.

Elise

Elise’s parents tried to teach her on a bike that had some training wheels, but after crashing only once, she would feel so discouraged and was afraid to get back on. At iCan Bike Camp, When Elise crashes, she gets help to turn her bike around and determinedly tries again. Although they hadn’t worked with Friendship Circle programs in the past, Elise’s mom, Misty, had found out about the camp from an Autism Speaks conference last year, and was hoping for the best results. “We were just hopeful that she would be able to do it,” said Misty. “Or at least make some improvements that we could work with at home.”

They were so hopeful about the program, that Elise and Misty spent about two and a half hours in the car everyday just to be at this year’s iCan Bike Camp. But for Misty, the experiences that Elise has gained during these past five days have made the commute completely worth it. “It’s definitely worth it. She’s improved so much. I mean, she’s doing it! I asked [one of the instructors] about getting one of the handles [for the bike], and she said, ‘For Elise? She doesn’t need it.’”

Jeremiah

Although confidently biking around the other campers in the gym on the first day–to the point where most of the volunteers working with Jeremiah were left out of breath after only a couple of laps–one wouldn’t think that Jeremiah had never really biked before. “We’ve been trying to teach him for the last two to three years,” said Jeremiah’s mom, Donna. “He had one accident–he fell off in the driveway–and he refused to get back on.”

In his very first program with Friendship Circle, Jeremiah looked completely at ease sitting and riding on his first bike upgrade. So much that Donna felt as though registering for this year’s iCan Bike Camp was a positive choice that would definitely help with teaching Jeremiah how to handle a two wheeler by himself. “After the first day [at camp], I got a little more confident. And I thought, ‘okay, he’s going to do this’.” With the confidence that Jeremiah has gained from the iCan Bike Camp, Donna hopes to enroll Jeremiah into more programs with Friendship Circle. “I’m always looking for something for Jeremiah to do–and his brother.”

For more information about iCan Bike and to pre-register for 2015 please visit www.friendshipcircle.org/wheels

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