Harford County’s iCan Bike Camp for people with differing abilities took place this week at the county’s Churchville Recreation Center.
The camp helps youth age 8 and older learn and experience the thrill of riding a bike by using adapted bicycles, a specialized instructional program and trained staff to teach and encourage individuals with disabilities how to ride. A volunteer spotter is assigned to each camper.
Over the course of the five-day camp, the adaptive bike is adjusted gradually to introduce more instability to challenge riders at their own pace.
Camryn Riley, who was volunteering at the iCan Bike Camp for the first time, said she was impressed how quickly campers were able to figure things out independently and surprised by their competitive spirit.
“They’re very competitive with each other, and love to have fun and play games, and I think you can use that to your advantage — ‘It’s a couple more laps, see if you can get in first place’ — and I think they have a lot of fun doing it,” she said Wednesday.
Riley was working with siblings Grace and Aedan Sather, who she said loved the bike and cheering each other on.
“They’re the sweetest people ever,” she said.
Jennifer Powell, a mom whose son Matthew was taking part in the iCan Bike camp, said she was bursting with pride after seeing her son be able to ride.
“I was so excited, I’m glad he was able to get over his own issues and anxieties and feel the what I used to remember about riding bikes,” she said. “It was that huge feeling of appreciation and adoration and everything else.”
Matthew was also excited about his success: “I was doing awesome,” he said.
All riders receive a T-shirt and a medal of completion at the closing ceremony on the last day of camp Friday. The is developed by the nonprofit iCan Shine, which has helped more than 20,000 individuals with disabilities worldwide learn to ride bikes since its founding in 2007, according to a county news release.
This is the fourth year that the camp has been offered by Harford County’s Office of Disability Services and the Department of Parks & Recreation under the administration of County Executive Barry Glassman.
“I get letters from parents who appreciate that their children get a chance to do something they may not otherwise have the chance to do,” Glassman said in a statement.
Volunteers, he said, call it a memorable and heartfelt experience. Riley seemed to agree.
“It’s refreshing to be around people who are so positive all the time,” Riley said. “Doing volunteering, it’s great to be a part of something. ... Especially when they’re having a rough time, and they finally get it, seeing the shine and sparkle in their eyes is really great.”
Aegis Editor S. Wayne Carter Jr. contributed to this article.