iCan Bike Camp Teaches Additional 39 People with Different Abilities How to Ride Bikes
Seventh year offering unique program
Pictured: Gabriella Shepherd (9) of University Heights with volunteer Landon Robinson of Copley High School Football
Meet Gabriella Shepherd, a nine-year old girl from University Heights who is diagnosed with epilepsy, autism, low muscle tone, developmental delays, and poor executive functioning skills. Her mother, doubting Gabriella’s ability to ever ride a two-wheel bicycle, decided to go to a local bike shop and buy her a tricycle for the summer. “The bike shop owner explained that a customer told him about iCan Bike Camp, and that his daughter learned to ride a bike at the camp,” she said. “He suggested I try it before investing in the adult tricycle for my daughter. So, I signed her up as a mother’s duty; just to be able to say I tried.”
A week later, Gabriella and 38 other individuals with developmental disabilities accomplished what once seemed impossible, and celebrated their successful graduation from iCan Bike Camp. The camp, now in its seventh year, is organized by the Autism Society of Greater Akron (ASGA), and teaches individuals with different abilities how to ride a two-wheel bike independently. iCan Bike Camp has been held at Copley High school since its inception, sharing their gymnasium and track with the program.
Each year, iCan Shine, a non-profit headquartered in Alexandria, VA, provides ASGA with adapted biking equipment and two staff members to help run the camp. Community partners also play a huge role in making the camp a success. For this session, the GPD Employees’ Foundation provided scholarships for riders and Akron Children’s Hospital donated bicycle helmets.
With the assistance of about 75 volunteers, riders used a specialized bicycle with the goal of learning appropriate balance. The camp would not be possible without volunteers donating their time and energy to change lives such as Gabriella Shepherd’s. Lisa Thompson, Director of Programs at ASGA and Camp Director for the past seven years said, “Parents sit through orientation on Sunday, listening to our enthusiastic presentation of information for camp, but they can’t envision their rider becoming independent by the end of one week,” she said. “It is always a joy to see them become believers as the week progresses!”
Gabriella Shepherd’s mother was one those parents who ended up a believer. “Gabriella learned to ride a bike, and I learned to believe in my child’s abilities, that my duty as a parent is really to let my child shine by embracing challenges, believing in what others may be able to offer to help my daughter succeed, and not holding the reins so tightly just because she has special needs,” she said.
Pictured: Session four of graduation on July 13th, 2018
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