Pictured: Kiera Madden of Hudson with volunteer Robbie Cramer of Walsh Jesuit High School
On Monday, July 8th, 40 individuals with disabilities, along with their parents, met in the auxiliary gym of Copley High School for iCan Bike, a week-long camp focused on learning how to ride a two-wheel bicycle. “I personally never thought she would be able to ride a bike before we heard about this camp,” said Lisa Strong of Akron as she spoke about her daughter, Jaylynn, who joined iCan Bike this summer. By Friday afternoon, Jaylynn and the 2019 class would overcome their doubts and celebrate successful graduation from the program.
Now in its eighth year, iCan Bike is a partnership between the Autism Society of Greater Akron (ASGA) and iCan Shine, with the goal of teaching individuals with different abilities how to ride a bike. Since year one, Copley High School has shared its gymnasium and track with the program. Adapted biking equipment and two staff members are provided each year by iCan Shine, a non-profit headquartered in Alexandria, VA, to help run the camp.
“I get to see happy faces all the time at our programs,” said Lisa Thompson, ASGA’s Director of Programs, “But without a doubt, iCan Bike combines happy faces and tears of joy from parents like no other. Witnessing parents watch their child learn to ride a bike makes it one of my favorite programs!”
Additionally, the camp would not be possible without the help of some 80 volunteers donating their time and energy to assist riders. “It’s so rewarding to watch these kids throughout their experience,” said Heather Patacca, a 2nd-year volunteer. “The joy on both the children and parent’s faces is really what we do it for.”
“I want to thank all of our volunteers from the local community”, said ASGA’s Lisa Thompson. “Some are high school athletes, some are college students studying a field of disability, such as speech-language pathology or OTPT, and some are just moms that are very connected to the cause. We couldn’t do this without them!”
Jamie Varga, whose son Curtis (11) participated in the camp, said “I see all of these kids learn to ride a bike in three to five days and I think it’s absolutely amazing. It’s incredible to see their confidence after they leave here. Curtis has made such great progress so far, which gives him the motivation to join in our family bike rides.”
iCan Bike’s success also depends greatly on community partnerships. This year, grants from GPD Employees’ Foundation and CapTrust Community Foundation, along with sponsorships from KidsLink Neurobehavioral Center and John Hancock, reduced the registration cost of the program and provided scholarships. Bicycle helmets were provided by the Safe Mobility Project, which is a collaboration between Akron Children’s Hospital and Goodyear.
Registration for next year’s iCan Bike opens April 2020, and the camp usually runs the first or second week of July. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit autismakron.org/bike for more information.
Pictured: Session three of graduation on July 12th, 2019