Harford County’s second annual iCan Bike Camp held its final session Friday, as campers received medals and a certificate signed by Harford County Executive Barry Glassman recognizing their achievements.
Established last summer, the five-day day camp held at the Churchville Recreation Center gives people with disabilities, ages 8 and up, an opportunity to learn and experience the thrill of bike riding.
Campers learn to ride on specially adapted bikes, taught by trained instructors. The training bikes are gradually adjusted over the five-day camp, so the campers can learn at their own pace.
This year’s iCan Bike Camp brought together 30 campers and a number of volunteers who work with the campers as spotters and assist the regular counselors.
This year’s volunteer contingent included three Aberdeen IronBirds pitchers: Zach Matson, Kevin Magee and Jimmy Murphy, who also brought the campers caps donated by the team.
Amanda Dorsey, a former student member of the Harford County Board of Education, returned to volunteer for the second year, joined by two college friends from Washington & Lee University. All three used their vacation time from summer internships to volunteer, Cindy Mumby, spokesperson for Harford County government, said.
The volunteer spotters work with the same camper each day and can end up running more than three miles during a daily training station. Mumby said many volunteers were there every day.
“I was amazed at what I saw,” said Mumby, who attended Friday’s final day. “I think all the participants, campers and volunteers found it to be a joyful, life-changing experience.
Scott Jones of Havre de Grace attended the iCan Bike Camp as a camper in 2017 and decided he wanted to return this year as a camp volunteer.
“Last year I came here as a biker not knowing how to ride a bike,” he said. “Then, this year I am here as a volunteer helping other kids learn how to ride a bike because I wanted to help other kids to learn, too. It makes me feel good inside… seeing this other kid who couldn’t ride a bike, and you feel happy inside because you had that same feeling last year and you get to watch someone else do it this year.”
His mom, Angie Jones, also was a volunteer this year.
“Last year Scott was a rider here at camp and the day we finished camp we went home and started riding bikes in our neighborhood, and now it’s something we do all the time,” she said. “So, it was his idea when he saw the bike camp advertised, he said, ‘Mom, we have to go volunteer because, you know I learned there last year,’ and so who can say no to that?”
“Originally we signed up for one session because I wasn’t sure physically if we could handle it,” Angie Jones said. “It turns out one of his friends was in the next session, so to be a motivator for her, we signed up for that one to be her helper.”
“It makes my heart so full, that my son appreciated someone doing it for him and it feels great to give back, it really feels great to give back,” she added.
The camp is overseen by Rachel Harbin, coordinator of the county’s Office of Disability Services.
According to Mumby, the Harford camp is modeled on a program created by iCan Shine Inc., a Pennsylvania nonprofit charitable organization which has helped more than 20,000 people with disabilities experience the joy of bike riding. In addition to bike riding, iCan shine offers swimming and other learning opportunities in recreational activities for people with disabilities, according to its website.
The Glassman administration subsidized the majority of the camp costs, which run about $250 per camper, Mumby said. Families pay $50 per camper. By keeping the cost down for participants, several families were able to purchase bikes, some with special equipment, Mumby said. (The camp does not sell bikes.)
The iCan Bike camp is part of the county executive’s initiative to increase recreational opportunities for citizens with disabilities.
In April, the county opened a “sensory trail” at Schucks Regional Park, near Harford Community College, to give people with disabilities opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
The county administration also has provided land at Schucks Regional Park for the Miracle League of Harford County, a local nonprofit, to construct a specially adapted baseball field for special needs children. The group is in the process of raising funds to build the ballfield.