Parents of participants in Harford County's first iCan Bike Camp for people with disabilities lauded the experience for their children, as did the new riders themselves, according to county officials.
Thirty-two people with disabilities, ranging in age from 8 to 35 years, experienced the thrill of learning to ride a bike the camp, which was held the week of Aug. 14 at the Churchville Rec Center's Level Building.
Sponsored by Harford County Community Services' Office of Disability Services, with support from Harford County Parks and Recreation and the county Local Management Board, the camp was offered for a nominal fee so that citizens of all abilities could feel the sense of accomplishment and freedom of bike riding, Harford County government said in a news release.
Participants donned helmets and took hold of the handlebars on a specially adapted bike, as they worked with volunteer spotters and professional iCan Bike Camp staff. By week's end, campers had learned to ride a two-wheel bike independently, gained confidence, and discovered new opportunities for fun, friendships, and future employment, according to the release.
Michelle Shramek said of her son, Matthew, "This was an amazing experience. Matthew's life is changed forever because of your program."
"Lily is so excited about her new skill," Lily's mother, Kelly Nelson, said. "She has gained more confidence in herself. It was a fantastic experience!"
Stacie Wheeley beamed when talking about her son, Nathan: "He has learned to ride a two-wheel bike! I cannot speak highly enough about our experience with the iCan Bike Camp. I am beyond pleased with the whole process."
Writing on Facebook, Melissa McClellan said of her children, Samuel and Cheyanne, "My two children loved and enjoyed Bike Camp. I never thought it was possible for them to learn to ride a two-wheel bike, and they both did. Thank you to everyone that made this possible [from] staff to volunteers. Harford County is where my heart is."
Each rider was paired at the camp with a volunteer from the community who assisted them and provided encouragement every day.
Volunteers bonded with riders, building relationships and raising awareness about the capabilities of those with disabilities in our community.
Youth and adult volunteers came from businesses and organizations including Charm City Run, Towson University in Northeastern Maryland Campus' Special Education Department, the Harford County Sheriff's Office, the John Archer School, North Harford High School's Cross Country Team, Fallston High School's Best Buddies Organization, and many other generous community residents.
All riders received an iCan Bike T-shirt at the start of the camp and a medal of completion and certificate from County Executive Barry Glassman at the closing ceremony on the last day of camp.
"Recreational skills, especially riding a bike, can often be difficult to master for individuals with disabilities," said Rachel Harbin, manager of the Office of Disability Services, said in a statement. "Youth and adults who cannot ride a bike miss out on fun and friendships with their siblings and peers, community interaction, exercise, and even job opportunities as they get older. We knew this Bike Camp would provide a safe, supportive and fun environment for riders to practice their bike skills and gain the confidence they need to ride on their own."
iCan Bike is a program designed by iCan Shine, an international nonprofit that has taught over 20,000 individuals with disabilities to ride bikes since its founding in 2007.
The program uses a fleet of adapted bicycles along with a specialized instructional program and trained staff guiding the riders in a warm and encouraging environment. Over the course of the five-day camp, the adapted bike is adjusted gradually to introduce more instability to challenge riders at their own individual pace.