Ticket to ride: Bike camp boosts quality of life for children with special needs

News / General

Big smiles as kids learn to ride two-wheeler for first time

Nothing says summer like a bike ride in the sunshine, and this week more than 30 children with special needs experienced the joy of riding a two-wheel bike for the first time thanks to a life-changing recreational camp at the Constantine Arena at CFB Kingston July 8 to 12. 

The iCan Bike camp combines adapted bicycles, a specialized instructional program and trained staff and volunteers to teach individuals with disabilities how to independently ride a two-wheel bicycle.  Riders attend 75-minute sessions daily over five days, their cycling skills growing as the bikes are gradually adjusted to challenge their sense of balance.

The fledgling cyclists are clients of the KidsInclusive Centre for Child & Youth Development at our HDH site and the Kingston Military Family Resource Centre (KMFRC).

“These children can struggle to keep up in many ways,” says Nancy Pike, a recreational therapist with KidsInclusive.  “For them, mastering a bike is a milestone accomplishment. It boosts their confidence and self-image, and it puts them on a more level playing field with their peers.

“This is about helping kids become more active and about building their sense of independence, which then has positive ripple effects across the lives of the children and their families.”

Now in its third year, the iCan Bike program is the brainchild of the U.S. charitable organization iCan Shine, which provides recreational learning opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Locally, the program is hosted by KidsInclusive and KMFRC, whose volunteers act as “spotters,” running alongside the kids and offering steadying hands and encouragement as they wheel around the arena.

Donor support for the camp came from The Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 560 and the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation thanks to first-time gifts from the GoodLife Kids Foundation and the Johnson, Johnston and Macrae Investment Group at CIBC Wood Gundy through the Miracle Day campaign.

“Thanks to the iCan Bike program we saw some big smiles on faces this week,” says Margaret van Beers, Director of KidsInclusive.   “We’re very grateful for this amazing collaborative effort of community partners and donors, which will open new doors for these children and their families.”