Riding solo

bikes1

Georgia club hosts a bike-riding camp for children with disabilities.

Story by Lydia Johnson

Learning how to ride a bike is a monumental childhood moment. But for many children with disabilities, that accomplishment is difficult to attain.

Dewey Smith, president of the Albany, Georgia, Kiwanis club, wanted to make the joy of riding a bike possible for every child. This past June, his club hosted the iCan Bike Camp, a program of iCan Shine. Participants learn how to ride a bike in just five days.

“It’s unbelievable,” Smith says. “It’s probably the best program we’ve ever done.”

Funding was provided by Albany-based nonprofit The 11 Foundation and the Georgia District Kiwanis Foundation. The Challenger League, a group of parents of children with special needs, referred participants.

The camp took place in the gymnasium of Darton State College. iCan Shine staffers supported volunteers, modified bicycles and facilitated lessons for 24 participants, who ranged in age from 8 to 16. 

Every 75 minutes, a new group began its daily lesson. Participants started with a custom-adapted balancing bike that fit their specific height and weight.

Riders worked with two volunteer spotters, who provided encouragement and assisted with fall prevention and balance issues. Those volunteers came from Circle K clubs, Key Clubs and the Albany Kiwanis club. Marines from the nearby Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany also helped. 

As riders moved on to conventional bicycles, lessons progressed to pedaling and navigating. Parents cheered from the bleachers as their children learned new skills. 

“They couldn’t get down on the floor and be with them; that would be a distraction,” says Smith. “But it was a sight to see the enthusiasm the kids had.”

At camp’s end, riders transitioned to practicing outside on an empty parking lot. By the final day, 17 participants were able to ride a conventional bicycle on their own. 

All participants received a certificate and ribbon for their hard work. As a special treat, Albany Kiwanis club members purchased a bike for one participant in each group.

Smith says the pride and self-confidence gained from learning how to ride a bike can make a big difference in a child’s life.

“They could do something that they had not done before, and I think that was a tremendous accomplishment.”


This story originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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