June 26, 2014

Organizers seek volunteers, riders for ICan Bike day camp

The Independent Living Center’s ICan Bike day camp is about a little more than just teaching kids to ride.

The telephone number to register or volunteer for the ICan Bike day camp is 316-942-6300, ext. 232. An earlier version of this story had an incorrect number. The Independent Living Center’s ICan Bike day camp is about a little more than just teaching kids to ride.

It’s about teaching children with developmental challenges that they can do things the other kids can do.

“It really instills that even with the disability, they’re really gaining independence, instead of being that child that sits on the curb,” said Cindi Unruh, executive director of the center that sponsors the annual program in Wichita.

The center is in the process of recruiting people to learn to ride – and volunteers to help them do it – for this year’s ICan Bike event at Wichita Ice Center, July 14-18.

While the primary focus is on children, the program is open to all participants age 8 or older. Participants must have a diagnosed disability and be able to walk without an assistance device.

The camp uses specially adapted bikes with wide rollers instead of wheels on the back to get the participants used to the idea of pedaling and steering. Then, they progress to riding regular bikes with grab handles so volunteers can catch them while they learn to balance on two wheels.

It’s a proven method that gets better results than trying to start off a child with a regular bike, Unruh said.

With most parents, “They’ve tried working with the child at home and everybody gets frustrated and stops,” she said.

About 80 percent of participants learn to ride a two-wheeler independently, said Twila Starns, a center staff member who runs the camp.

That contrasts with national research that 80 to 90 percent of people with autism or Down syndrome never learn to ride, although many of them are capable of doing it.

“It is truly a miraculous camp to see first hand,” said Gail Jamison, a Goddard school board member who has volunteered with ICan Bike for eight years.

The day camp can accommodate 40 riders, each of whom is helped by trained staff and two volunteers. The cost for participants is $125, including the five 75-minute instruction sessions, a fitted helmet, a T-shirt and a trophy.

A limited number of scholarships are available for lower-income families.

The center has 25 confirmed students so far for this year’s session, Unruh said.

The deadline to register is July 7, but earlier would be better because there’s some paperwork that has to be taken care of before a participant can ride, Unruh said.

Starns said she hopes to have volunteers lined up by July 4.

Volunteers must be at least 16 years old and able to run alongside the riders around the rink, which is covered over with a wood floor for the event, Unruh said.

It’s not as grueling as it sounds, because volunteers switch off with each other for rest and some of the riding is at walking pace, Starns said.

The time commitment for volunteers is about 1 1/2 hours a day for five days.

Those interested in registering or volunteering can call Starns at 316-942-6300, ext. 232.

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