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Bike Camp Returns to Nashville
June 7, 2013
By: Carolyn Naifeh
Thanks to the iCan Shine Bike program, held June 3-7 at Nashville’s Christ Church YMCA, 20 more children and young adults in Tennessee can ride their bikes – no training wheels required. Formerly known as Lose the Training Wheels, iCan Shine Bike participants ranged in age from the single digits to 39-years-old. Highly trained staff, along with a bevy of volunteers, worked with the campers – sometimes one to two trainers per rider, sometimes, if needed, a five to one ratio. It all depended on how to best maximize the abilities of each individual.
The Pujols Family Foundation, YMCA Full Circle and the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee sponsored Nashville’s iCan Bike camp. iCan Bike is a five-day camp for children and adults with disabilities who want to learn to ride a two-wheel bicycle independently. Campers attend a 75-minute session a day, riding specialized equipment and surrounded by encouragement and support.
With their helmets in place, riders started out on Day 1 with trepidation. Some campers needed to be cajoled to come for Day 2. But as soon as riders reached the magical tipping point, they transformed from scared and nervous to having fun and best of all, busting with pride. They worked hard for their certificates, handed out at the end of Day 5 by the Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee, Alecia Talbott, and her aide, Erin Kice. As the campers graduated from oversized bikes to tandem bikes to the real deal, their smiles graduated in sync with their progress. With more faith in themselves, participants had an easier time of it each day as they gained balance, motor skills and confidence.
My personal favorite participant was a 13-year-old boy whose mom and two younger brothers were watching from the sidelines. He would be doing great until he looked at his mom and siblings. Once he looked at them, he’d start smiling. And once he started smiling, he’d forget where he was going and what he was doing. It was superhumanly difficult not to laugh because he did this over and over and over again, every time he went around. Finally, his mom and I had to turn our backs every time he came around so that we wouldn’t cause a ruckus by smiling. Part of this participant’s winning formula? Reduce the smiling, reduce the wobbling.
Some 3,000 individuals with disabilities are participating in the iCan Shine Bike programs nationwide this year, with most participants able to independently ride a conventional bicycle independently after one week of camp. This program continues to make a huge impact on all of those involved. We are thrilled that those we serve in Nashville are among those that benefit.