R.J. Beste decided he was tired of riding his bike.
R.J. is 12 and has Down syndrome. Marty Johnson, one of R.J.s two spotters at the Lose the Training Wheels bike camp, tried to motivate R.J. to get back on his bike.
This isnt walking camp, Johnson told him. This is biking camp.
R.J. got back on the bike and continued circling the Wichita Ice Center.
I enjoy cycling as an activity, so I see the health benefits and just enjoy it, Johnson said. If I can do something on my part to help someone else enjoy cycling, then Im glad to do it.
Lose the Training Wheels is a nonprofit that offers camps for people with disabilities nationwide.
The Independent Living Resource Center has sponsored the camp for the seven years it has come to Wichita.
Eight campers on specialized bikes ride inside the Wichita Ice Center during each session. The ice is covered with flooring provided by Intrust Bank Arena.
There are five sessions daily, each lasting 75 minutes. The camp, which began Monday and ends today, served 40 campers ages 8 to 53.
The biggest part is inclusion, said Deb Umberger, communications and public relations coordinator for the Independent Living Resource Center. For many kids, a big rite of passage is learning how to ride a bike. If their neighbors and siblings can and they cant, then they feel left out.
Johnson said he had heard about the program in years past but made the decision to volunteer this year.
I thought Id be too busy, Johnson said, but this year I figured they could get along without me at work for one hour. I just made the commitment to help, and Im glad I did it.
In addition to being a volunteer, Johnson recruited others. After sending an e-mail about Lose the Training Wheels to a few friends, he said he had 10 people sign up immediately.
Most have full time jobs or are taking time away from work to do this, Johnson said. I encourage anybody just to volunteer with people with special needs. Its very rewarding.
Campers begin the program by riding bikes with a roller instead of a rear wheel. The rollers allow the campers to learn stability. The goal is to have everyone riding two-wheel bicycles by the final day of camp; Umberger said there is an 80 percent success rate.
We do try to have the same volunteers with the same campers every day, Umberger said. It makes for a good experience for the campers, and spotters form an attachment for the camper theyre working with.
Johnson said Wednesday that he hoped to see R.J. riding a two-wheel bike by the end of camp.
Its really rewarding, and Ill certainly do it again, Johnson said. It puts a lump in your throat. Hes a real sweet kid.