Big Dreams on Two Wheels – Friendship Circle Hosts iCan Bike Camp

They came, they biked, and, best of all, they beamed with pride.

Such was the scene Tuesday at West Bloomfield High School, where children with special needs made lap after lap around the gym, during Day 2 of the five-day iCan Bike camp hosted by Friendship Circle.

With the help of nearly 20 young volunteers and program staffers, participants made tremendous strides toward reaching their goal of riding a bicycle all on their own. Whether it was wearing a helmet for the first time or quickly rounding the orange cones on specially-equipped bikes with little help from spotters, each child triumphed on his or her own terms.
Rounds of applause and words of encouragement filled the room, in true Friendship Circle fashion.

“iCan Bike is an awesome way to get families connected with Friendship Circle and to tell them all about who we are and what we do,” said Erin Berry, Friendship Circle program manager. “This also helps us connect with the wider community as a whole – and building supportive connections is what Friendship Circle is all about.”

The weeklong camp consists of five 75-minute sessions each day. In all, 40 children are participating this year, thanks to word-of-mouth and social media outreach, Berry said.

For several years now, Friendship Circle has hosted the bike camp run by iCan Shine, a St. Louis-based organization that provides unique recreational learning opportunities for people with disabilities across the country. The two iCan Shine staffers conducting the West Bloomfield camp – Amanda Bartolotta of Buffalo, N.Y., and Eric Marr of St. Louis – will spend their summer traveling from state to state, teaching scores of children with special needs how to ride a bike. The pair work together – Marr as bike technician and Bartolotta as floor supervisor — to ensure each session runs smoothly.

Tuesday’s camp theme was Tandem Tuesday, Bartolotta explained.

In addition to riding the roller bikes, which have a safety roller instead of a rear tire to simulate the feel of riding on two wheels, campers had a chance to take a spin on a special tandem bike with Marr.

“We use it as a diagnostic tool to see what they need to work on,” he said. “If it’s steering, pedaling, leaning … we can diagnose that from taking them on a ride. It’s helpful in giving them interventions later on throughout the week.”

While campers rode the roller bikes, volunteers, many of whom were local high school students, were at their side, cheering them on. It was hard to tell who was having more fun – the campers or the volunteers.

That was the case for Anika Ghosh, an incoming freshman at West Bloomfield High School and a first-time volunteer at the camp. She relished all the smiles.

“It’s nice to see the campers happy and know that they can achieve their goals,” she said.

Learning to ride a bike can open up a whole new world of opportunities for children with special needs, children like Ryan Irwin of White Lake, for whom this childhood rite of passage seemed out of reach just days before.

His mother, Patty Irwin, said she was moved to tears Monday when she saw her 14-year-old son ride a bike for the first time.

“I cried,” she said, “because he’s been trying to ride since he was 4, and this, to me, is awesome.”

Click HERE to learn more about iCanBike.

Overnight Success: Friendship Circle Summer Camp Brings Fun and Community to Those in Isolation

Swimming, boating and a talent show were highlights at sleepaway camp at North Star Reach Arts and crafts,…

Faces & Places: Friendship Circle Holds Virtual Walk4Friendship to Raise Money For Children With Special Needs

Friendship Circle’s community of supporters and friends were “Apart But Close In Heart” Sept. 6 for the annual…

5 Things to Know About the 2020 Walk4Friendship

The 15th annual Walk4Friendship will take place on Sunday, Sept. 6. of Labor Day weekend. These are five…

Friendship Circle camp is in session with extra safety precautions

(WXYZ) — You’ve likely seen the name Friendship Circle. And have seen the purple and white logo. Well,…

Friendship Circle camp for special needs children presses on amid pandemic with precaution

PINCKNEY, MIch. (FOX 2) – A day on the lake with friends – the kind of kinship so…

It’s Camp in a Box!

Friendship Circle delivers the spirit of camp Over 70 families were thrilled when Friendship Circle appeared at their…