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Sewing and Embroidery Powered by Brother International

Sewing with Brother

Sewing and Embroidery powered by Brother International

Thank you for your donation Brother International!

Donation by Brother

Brother International generously donated 4 Project Runway Limited Edition Computerized Sewing Machines, a 1034D Serger (edger) and an Persona PRS100 embroidery machine to the Dresner Foundation Soul Studio last summer. Several artists have learned sewing skills on the donated machines and have produced purses, scarfs, pillows, mug rugs, bracelets and more. The finished products are then displayed in the gallery and sold to the community. Thank you Brother International; your donation has made it possible for several artists to learn new skills and to push themselves to create more art with those skills.

Artists at work

There is a gentle murmur of excited people around 10am in the Dresner Foundation Soul Studio. The artists are all exiting the regular morning meeting and are headed to their places in the studio to get started with their work. The art program is in the second week of a new schedule, where artists are immersed in a medium for an entire month to get a more thorough experience.

Artists Devorah Newman and Adam Egrin are assigned to sewing projects and their volunteers, Ginger Pringle and Bonnie Laker, are assisting the artists with getting the machines ready to go. Bonnie is threading one of the Brother sewing machines with black thread for Adam’s project and Ginger is applying a line of blue tape near the needle on Devorah’s assigned machine. As she waits to get started Devorah discusses her project and her first time sewing. “I am making a light violet pillow because I had too much room left on the baby blanket I made.” Devorah explains, “I haven’t sewn before and I’m enjoying it. I find it challenging to keep things lined up sometimes, but that’s why she [Ginger] is putting tape on my machine.”

Devorah Newman and Ginger Pringle applying tape to sewing machine

Devorah Newman watches as Ginger Pringle places a piece of tape as a line guide onto her sewing machine.

Creating new pieces from old projects

The Fiber Arts studio has several looms for weaving and both Adam and Devorah are using their time on the sewing machines to create new pieces out of weaved projects.

Adam and a sample bracelet

Adam Egrin holds up an example of the bracelets that he is working on.

“I’m working on bracelets that are made on memory wire. It was my first time weaving and I made a seven inch scarf that I will be cutting into bracelets. The studio wanted to sell bracelets in the gallery and I was like, ‘hey, I like it and I’ll do those.’” Adam explains. “I chose to make each one have a different design and some of the designs I had multiple threads in one, to make one thread. I made sure to have sparkle thread in each section of the scarf so every bracelet will have some sparkle.” He says excitedly.

Bonnie Laker sewing on Brother machine

Studio volunteer Bonnie Laker demonstrates a two handed sewing technique

Bonnie has finished threading Adam’s machine and she has started sewing a few stitches on the thick scarf. She speaks to Adam to explain what she is doing, “So, the only thing I’m going to tell you about these is that they are very thick.”
“So go slow.” Adam finishes.
“Well, do you see how my fingers are? See how I’m pushing? You need to push the material so that it’s not getting stuck under the needle.” Bonnie demonstrates the pushing motion on the scarf.
“Oh, I see.” He replies and he takes his place on his machine.

Learning the basics

Devorah is also sitting in her place behind her sewing machine and ready to get started by stitching a ribbon into the edge of the blanket. She has lined up her work along the blue tape that Ginger placed there. As Devorah starts sewing, Ginger talks about her experience with donated sewing machines. “I have been sewing since I was ten years old, but I have never sewn on Brother machines before. So far, I really like them. I have a different kind of machine at home, but I have enjoyed these.” She watches Devorah’s progress and stops talking to help her artist, “We need to straighten this up just a little bit.” She explains patiently to Devorah, who stops the machine and straightens her material before starting up again.

Devorah Newman sewing with tape guide

Devorah Newman sewing to complete a baby blanket with matching pillow set.

“They are easy to operate and threading the machine, you have to be careful with that. You need to be sure that you don’t skip any steps. We want the artist to have a satisfying experience and if the machine is threaded incorrectly then they are going to have trouble.” Ginger says. “Brother makes it easy.”

Adam has been listening while he works and adds, “That’s something really nice about these machines, they have three speeds. So, when you are just learning, it’s great because you won’t have the machine run away with you. I like the buttons and display on the side here that explain the different stitching options. It shows each stitch and how you can use it. I can understand it and it makes sense.”

Adam likes the stitching options

Adam Egrin sewing stitches on a scarf to create bracelets.

Bonnie, Adam’s volunteer for the day, chimes in with, “Also, the self threader, I love the self-threader! When the artists are brand new to sewing, that’s a nice feature.”

Strides in stitches

“I’ve definitely noticed an improvement from the artists since they first got started. Devorah has picked up very quickly on this. We use a guide here and it makes it so much easier and she’s able to keep it right on the guide and now I’m not having to help her at all, which is great! Adam had never sewn before last week and he’s doing great too!” Ginger explains.

Adam adds, “Having these machines gives us more versatility because some of the things you can’t do by hand, well you could, but it would take a long time. It also makes stitches that are much stronger than you could do by hand.”

Photo of weaving project in need of rescue

Bonnie shows an example of a weaving project in need of rescue

Bonnie shows off an infinity scarf that she helped to rescue from the discard pile. “This was a first attempt on the loom for one of the other artists. There were a lot of strings and it was very uneven, but thanks to the sewing machines, it now looks like this.”

The rescued infinity scarf

The finished infinity scarf

“That’s a really good thing about having the machines right here.  We are able to take a piece of weaving that you might look at and say, ‘Ok, what are we going to do with this?’ Then we can run it through the machine and turn it into that. Now we can sell it and the artist will make a commission off of her work. So that’s really really neat.” Ginger finishes.

The Dresner Foundation Soul Studio & Gallery are open weekdays from 11am-3pm stop in to see the artists at work and visit the gallery to see their latest works and merchandise.

Creating in Art at Farber

The silence in the Farber Center tonight is almost eerie; the building is usually roaring with life, but on this Monday night, the Soul Cafe’ is closed and the resident Soul Studio artists had already gone home.  

The artists creating art tonight are concentrating very hard on their work. It is the last day of the Art at Farber winter session and the artists are busy finishing up their projects.  Around the room there are large triangular roll around displays, each displaying art from a different artist in the program.

Hailey Reinke next to her Wall of Art

Hailey Reinke next to her Wall of Art

Meeting the artists

Program participant and artist, Hailey Reinke, is a bold and seemingly uninhibited young lady.  She wears two beautiful shoulder length french braids in her hair and a blue and gray t shirt.  When she talks about her time in the Art at Farber program there is a smile on her face.  Hailey describes her project called All About Hailey as a paper collage that features sketches and drawings of her and her thirteen year old cousin. She also explains that she used painting markers for some of her art pieces.  After the winter session, Hailey plans to return for the spring session of Art at Farber.

Hailey, Elizabeth and Alexa working on their art projects

Hailey Reinke, Elizabeth Brinkerhoff and Alexa Morris working on their art projects

Making it work

Hailey is working at a table with two other young ladies. Alexa Morris is drawing a large sketch with colored pencils as she uses a photograph as a reference for her work.  Elizabeth Brinkerhoff shows off her wall of art proudly as she explains what the images and painting are all about. “I like spooky things.” She says.

There was a handful of printed pictures of dark and spooky images, like spider webs and silhouetted trees, with an almost-completed painting on canvas of Dracula in the center of the prints. When she is asked about the printed images she replies, “Oh they were supposed to go into the background of my painting. All of this stuff was originally supposed to be part of the portrait, but I did it differently.”

She talks about how her original idea did not work out and that Brian Kavanaugh, the Gallery Director for the Soul Studio, helped her with another idea. He had set up her canvas and a projector to project an image onto the canvas so Brinkerhoff could transfer her vision to the painting, “I liked tracing it with the projector for the background and then putting it all together.”

Adam working in studio

Adam Reinke and Jaime Whitener in the Soul Studio

Assisting with the artist’s vision

Helping the artists create their vision is one of the reasons why Jamie Whitener volunteers here.  “I’ve been doing this for about 4 weeks now and I love it! Especially this new facility, it’s perfect for me because I love art. I love helping people with art and being able to volunteer here, it’s really awesome.” He explains.

When asked about the program and how it all works he replied, “It’s like, ‘what do you want to make?’ and usually they know exactly what they want to do for that day and they do it. We just go with the flow. They get paints out if they want to paint; get pencils out if they want to do pencils.” He says. “Sometimes, like when we made the paper mache, [all of the artists participate in that project] because that is something that is harder to do. Harder to set up, but it’s really chill.”

Adam and Jamie in studio

Adam Reinke and Jamie Whitener pose together in the studio

Artistic Voices

This evening Jamie is assisting Adam Reinke, Hailey’s twin brother and fellow artist in this program.  “He enjoys looking at books and drawing the pictures he likes, but with his own take on it. Like, this whole wall here, is his stuff and you can see it’s Disney Characters, but they are really colorful and kind of stylized.” Jamie said when asked about Adam’s work.

“I am all done with Mickey Mouse.” Adam tells Jaimie.

“It looks good.” Jamie replies.

Adam says that he enjoys painting because he likes to make pictures of movie characters. “Yeah he’s really good at those.” Jaime chimes in.

Adam asks Jamie for another piece of paper so he can draw another picture and as Jamie gets a sheet for him, it becomes clear that the kids in the room are not just participants in a program, but artists. They each created a wall of art in their time in the program and they are proud of their work. They are encouraged to use their own artistic style and to experiment with different mediums to find their artistic voice. This group of young people can sometimes struggle to communicate, but this evening they show a lot of expression and emotion in their art.

The Spring session of Art at Farber is starting up soon! If you are interested to learning more about this program or the other’s that we offer, you can read about them at www.friendshipcircle.org/programs.

Bakery Skills participants working

Bakery Skills program teaches employable skills

Walk into the Jewish Community Center on a Thursday evening and you can smell the baking challah bread wafting from the catering kitchen. That means the Friendship Bakery is in action!

The Friendship Bakery is a transitional program which is dedicated to preparing its participants for securing and maintaining a job in the community, specifically within the restaurant business.

Let us introduce you to Alexa Morris, Jordan Weinfeld and Ben Nadis, all of whom were involved with Friendship Circle when they were younger and are now participants in the Bakery Skills program.

Weinfeld heard about the opportunity with Friendship Bakery from his connections in Friendship Circle. “I gave it a try and I think it’s just the best thing I ever did because it gave me a perspective on a way to live and way to see others for who they are. I really like that about the Friendship Bakery.” Weinfeld said.

There are three areas of this program and each section offers different levels of hands on learning depending on the skill and ability of the participant. The first section is dough prep. In dough prep the participants follow a recipe and weigh, measure and add the ingredients to create and prep the dough for the next section. Baking actually takes place in the second section and participants are responsible for applying the egg wash to the dough, putting the dough in the oven, setting a timer and pulling the bread out when it is done. In the third section the participants sell the baked Challah to customers and receive a small commission for each loaf they sell.

Weinfeld has been in the bakery program since 2013 and has worked all three areas of the program. His experience and expertise have put him in a position to be a leader to others in the program. He encourages his fellow participants and assists with questions and issues that may arise during the process. “We learn those skills here, how to bake. I think it is a really great skill to have. It shows people that we can do things and that we’re capable and that we’re so much more than people give us credit for. I think it is a wonderful thing for the community and us to do and I’m really proud to be here!” Weinfeld said.

This program meets weekly and takes place in a professional kitchen. The participants acquire skills such as measuring, identification of ingredients, correct use of equipment, kitchen safety and cleanliness and basic business management.

“What I like about the program is that I’ve learned different skills. I learned how to braid, how to weigh and be a team player and help people if they need my help.” Nadis explained. “If I keep doing this, I might actually work in a bakery one day, if I decide too.”

In the kitchen, Ben is breaking eggs into a pitcher

Ben breaking eggs for the Dough Prep

Alexa Morris came to the Bakery Skills program because of her history with Friendship Circle and she discovered a passion for cooking. She took the skills she learned in the program and found employment in a professional kitchen. “[This program] has helped me learn more about weighing and measurement. You need to know about those things when you are in a real kitchen. I started working at a kitchen, that has also helped me a lot too. It’s another step [toward] being more independent. It’s helped me gain the understanding of where that level can be.”

Friendship Bakery participant Alexa is reading recipe

Alexa Morris reading recipe

If you are interested in learning more about the Bakery Skills program or you would like to help support it, you can read more about it here: www.friendshipcircle.org/bakery.

Soul Center Mini

Big Hearts at Soul Center Mini

As construction continues on the future site of the Farber Soul Center, a new  temporary location has been opened to provide opportunities for young adults with special needs.

The “Soul Center Mini”, provides an exciting preview for the future. Only a fraction of the size of what the completed Farber Soul Center will be, every inch of the space is utilized for artful purpose. From weaving to printmaking, painting to graphic design, there is truly something for every artist to showcase their talent.

Upon entering Soul Center Mini, one cannot help but feel its impact. Entry walls display beautiful artwork, setting the stage for the potential and possibility beyond them. Instructors Carolyn Morris and Brian Kavanaugh have designed a space that provides opportunity and encourages collaboration. Carolyn, a gifted fiber artist, notes, “the way Brian’s arranged the space, the openness of it…it’s creating a sense of community. The people who are weaving are talking to the people who are making clay, inspiring joint projects and togetherness.”

carolynandrtisits

Instructor Carolyn Morris leads artists in a weaving lesson.

Not only are the young adults instructed in a variety of media and encouraged to venture outside their comfort zones, they are educated on the responsibilities of a workplace. “We will be teaching specific skills to strengthen a person’s overall experience and resume…the scenarios that go along with having a job such as recording ones arrival and departure time, and how to handle social situations inherent to a work environment”, says Brian.

Additionally, every aspect that goes into a finished piece of art is attended to; each step treated as a learning opportunity. Artists have a hand in tasks such as stretching their canvases, installing their work, and cataloguing each piece, just to name a few.

Carolyn&Devorah

Carolyn Morris and artist Devorah Newman weave a scarf.

Introducing Brian Kavanaugh

For Brian, his level of comfort working with special needs comes with experience. Graduating with a BFA, he went on to obtain a graduate degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art. He joins the Friendship Circle from Autism Services in Buffalo, New York where he worked in a similar center for the arts. As an artist himself, any chance to make a mark on the community in a tangible way made all the difference for him. He’s seeking to do the same for the individuals at the Soul Center.

BrianInstallation

Instructor Brian Kavanaugh hangs a tapestry woven at the Center.

Creating Works of Art Based on Personality

The level of enjoyment and quality of the work being created is directly correlated with the approach to instruction. Each artist’s background is carefully considered to determine where they might excel. For artist Saadia, the subject matter is much more important than the materials being used. Where as artist Aislinn’s interests lie in the process of a piece and the sensations of the material. Incorporation of these unique interests when working with the artists is what’s taking their abilities to the next level and always amounts to something beautiful.

Saadiacomposing

Artist Saadia Grossbard composes a collage.

Excellence at Work

Though the wonderful guidance being offered at the Center is undeniable, nothing compares to when an artist takes charge of their direction. When asked about the most rewarding aspect of the day, Brian replied, “the moment where they, the artists, start to contemplate what the next move should be instead of other people telling them what to do, when they make the next decision. It’s so empowering for them.”

Aislinncontemplating

Artist Aislinn Wendrow contemplates her painting.

The Soul Center Mini has only been up and running for a short time, but the participating artists are finding a voice there. Each masterpiece represents the individuality and spirit of its creator, the very essence of art itself. The Center is paving the way for the Friendship Circle to expand its mission into the lives of young adults with special needs and the heart of the mission can be found there too.

Hi Ho Hi Ho, A Camping We Will Go!

Monday morning brought campers not only to Friendship Circle, in order to catch a bus, but also their sense of adventure. What adventure is that, you may ask? The great outdoor adventure. With the help of the Bear Hug Foundation, campers look forward to the four day, three night annual overnight camp every summer.

Climbing onto the bus, campers head off with cheery faces and excitement to Camp Tamarack. There, the kids are encouraged to “live the experience”, as they broaden their horizons and pick up a variety of skills with the help of their buddies.

Camping Fun

Overnight Camp 2014

With rock climbing, swimming and archery on the agenda, campers enjoyed all of the fun and experiences that came with not only spending time with their buddies, but also trying out new things at the overnight. One night, the kids put together and presented a camp talent show–from solos to group sing alongs, no one was left out. Everyone joined in and had a great time!

The kids also:

  • Tie-dyed t-shirts and pillowcases
  • Created new things in arts and crafts
  • Played Friendship Circle games
  • Played sports with staff

Outdoor learning

Overnight Camp 2014, 2

While a lot of fun can be enjoyed at camp, there is also a time to learn in order to help heighten the experiences gained. From the morning they arrived at Camp Tamarack, to the evening they left, all of the participants definitely learned new things about the great outdoors, camping and pioneer life.

Whether in the woods, on the trails or by the lake, campers were taught by Tamarack staff, through games and hands on learning, about the ecosystems that surrounded them, the different types of animals that lived in the wild, and also focused on the different living organisms that called water their home.

Overnight Camp 2014, 5

Tamarack staff also helped campers learn how to survive in the wild during their own camping adventures. Many fish were caught by campers and volunteers alike, and delicious food (like grilled cheese sandwiches and popcorn) was cooked over a campfire. Campers were also taught how to use a compass and follow directions to get where they needed to.

Campers spent time at the pioneer village, learning about that era of time by visiting different parts of town and role playing. At the tavern, campers dressed up in period clothing and enjoyed homemade treats. Campers and their buddies were also locked in a cell at the village jail after admitting to what they were caught for (stories creatively made up by the campers). In the general store, campers “oohed and aahed” over pioneer tools, sweets and life necessities, while learning about how those tools helps pioneers in their day-to-day lives.

Overnight Camp Camp 2014, 3

The campers, staff and volunteers all experienced a sense of peace so close, yet so far away from home. Beyond this story, memories were created, new friendships were formed, while some older friendship were ignited.

And of course, we couldn’t forget about the traditional roasting of s’mores!

Because a camping trip can never be without s’mores!

Overnight Camp 2014, 4

 

Exploring our Friendship Circle Summer Day Camp

In August, Friendship Circle becomes rather boisterous, as children with special needs come together with our teen volunteers. These excited campers spend four weeks of their summer vacation learning new things at our 8th annual summer day camp, while continuously developing already gained skills. From everyday activities to field trips to welcoming Friendship Circle guests, these children are always on the move, constantly asking questions and experiencing new adventures every day.

Two Tracks

Each child is on one of two different tracks: the social skills track and the day camp track. Children enrolled in the social skills track begin their mornings with a social skills class, before joining in that day’s activities. The main theme focused in the social skills class focused mainly on celebrations, with various topics covered throughout the weeks.

In-House Activities

During the week, campers rotate between different activities within the Ferber Kaufman LifeTown. Whether it’s learning about new music, working on some new arts and crafts project, or learning a new game during gym, campers are immersed in a variety of different hands-on activities in order to maintain their attention while learning.

Friendship Circle Visitors

While experiencing these rotating sessions, campers also welcome fun and exciting new friends to Friendship Circle. The campers have

  • Met a magician, and gained a new animal balloon friend
  • Met a mad scientist, and learned more about how the world runs
  • Played with bubbles, while learning about related activities that they could do with their families at home.

Excursions

Campers have also been adventuring out into the community throughout the week. Take a look at what the children have been up to!

  • Bouncing at SkyZone
  • Swim lessons at Aqua Tots
  • Swimming at the Warren Community Center
  • Exploring the Howell Nature Center
  • Visited the Michigan Science Center
  • Made a splash at Heritage Park
  • Visited the Southfield Library
  • Explored Kensington Metropark

Of course, besides our wonderful staff, this camp would not be possible without the help of the hundred volunteers that rotate throughout the day camp–a majority of them being all year round volunteers.

As our 2014 summer draws to a close, we spend our last day at camp enjoying last minute activities, saying goodbye to old and new friends and join in with sharing all of the memories we’ve made, as we look forward to the Friendship Circle being just as busy again next summer.

Miracle League Baseball

4 Bases, 3 Strikes, and 15 Amazing Moments from Miracle League

Over the last three months over 30 children with special needs participated in this summer’s Miracle League,. Participants were able to enjoy the thrill of playing baseball just like typically-developing children.

In honor of this season’s Miracle League ending, we would like to present to you a visual story comprised of 15 special moments from Miracle League.

Being a participant of Miracle League is a pretty big thing to be proud of.

14730326090_ef90e82a4e_oEven if you’re the Play-By-Play Announcer, like Steve Peck

It’s not about the trophies-but we won’t deny that we love earning them.

14916986145_234d54d475_oAnd Brendan certainly isn’t refusing his trophy as he poses with Coach Phil.

It’s about spending quality time with our best buds (aka: the volunteers),

Like Nicholas and Jodi, who enjoy spending quality time together.

And working hard to be our very best.

As we can see Lila here focusing before swinging her bat.

It’s about keeping our eye on the ball, and knowing when to swing.

Which is exactly what little Leila is doing.

Miracle League is about teamwork and making it from base to base.

See how Maryrose with volunteer Lisa are working together to make it Home?

It’s also about trying to catch the ball,

Reaching out for it like Josh is with volunteer Blake.

Chasing down that ball, no matter how far,

With the same determination that Alex has.

And getting the ball back to the pitcher when it’s time to.

Travis does such a great job delivering the ball to the pitcher.

When it’s in the heat of the game, we still communicate with our buddies.

Just like Connor is with volunteer Hari.

Miracle League is about the pride we have when we become a Home Run Hero.

Look how proud Drew is!

It’s about the instinct we get to run Home because we’re cutting it close.

Watch how fast Jonathan is flying by!

It’s about reaching for the sky to achieve your goals


As Evan goes airborne to reach home plate!

But at the end of the day, the best part of Miracle League is the Friendship!

High-fiver Shoshana and volunteer Sanjana.

But we still really do love getting those medals.

Just like Miracle Medalist Arjun.

Teaching individuals with special needs how to ride a bicycle

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