Meagan and Shawn - A Match Made in Heaven
Megan Dunphy helped out at the first I Can Bike Program (formerly Lose the Training Wheels) in 2012 and the experience was phenomenal! In fact, she was so inspired that she wrote a speech about her time at the camp and was then chosen to speak at her school's National Honors Society Induction about Service with that speech. She also used her experience to write essays for college applications and scholarships. She wanted to let you know that volunteering at the I Can Bike Program was an amazing opportunity!
Read Meagan's Speech - Service
When I was six years old, I learned how to ride a bike, a real bike, a bike without training wheels, a bike with large white wheels, a purple frame, and those irresistible flashy streamers hanging from either handlebar. Being able to ride a two-wheeled bike is the dream of every child, and my mind was set determinedly on that goal. Finally, after what seemed like an entire box of Band-Aids and a never-ending supply of encouragement, my dad gave me one last push, and I pedaled forward, steady and confident. I was so excited, and my mom and dad were so proud, cheering as I zoomed past. I had had my fair share of struggles as all of us do, but none came close in comparison to the challenges that were overcome by the kids I met this summer.
When I was learning to ride a bike, I did not have cerebral palsy and I had not already experienced several brain surgeries by the age of eleven. These are just some of the difficulties that Shawn had to overcome. This summer, I had the opportunity to spend a week teaching Shawn how to ride a bike without training wheels.
On the first day of the bike camp, Shawn showed up with his mom, and he was a bundle of skinny limbs and excitement. For eleven years old, he was small, but he had a big toothy grin and blue eyes surrounded by the thickest eyelashes I have ever seen. I could tell he was ready to learn, extremely excited but also very nervous as he repeated several times in his happy, voice, "I hope I don't fall!"
The overall process of the "Lose the Training Wheels" program is fairly simple. The program gives the opportunity for children with a disability to learn how to independently ride a bike. The camp provides customized bikes for each rider, which are similar to regular bikes but differ in two ways. First and most important, there is no back wheel; instead a rubber roller, similar to a kitchen rolling pin, takes the place of the back wheel. Secondly, there is a handle on the back of the bike.
Shawn hopped up on his customized bike, fearless and eager, and sped off right away. My job was to be his spotter. I followed Shawn around the gym as he circled over and over. I encouraged him to pedal, make turns, and use his handbrakes to stop. Every time we went around the gym, we would pass Shawn's mom and Shawn would shout, "I love you too Mom!" even if she wasn't looking up at the time.
Shawn learned at an exponential rate. By the third day, he was already riding a real two-wheel bike. Shawn was the first one of the eight riders to achieve enough balance, one of his greatest struggles, to be able to ride without training wheels. He raced across the parking lot, looping between his dad and me, free and flying. His face lit up and his eyes widened in excitement as an unforgettable smile broke across his face. That experience was one of the most exciting moments of his life. He had struggled and worked so hard with so many things in and finally he could have what most of us can take for granted: a carefree ride on a bicycle.
This experience was also one of the most rewarding moments of my life. Helping Shawn learn to ride a bike was comparable to nothing else I have done before. Even though I was supposed to be teaching Shawn, he taught me as well. Shawn is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. He was just an eleven-year-old boy trying to learn to ride a bike. Yet, every day he showed up with a smile on his face and was sweet and kind, no matter what challenges were ahead of him. Shawn changed my perspective on life and reminded me how truly fortunate I am, that giving some of my time to help others can really make a difference, even impact their lives and futures. Shawn reminded me that service is not work unless you make it work and that it is more important how you spend your hours of service rather than how many hours you spend.