For many children with Down syndrome, those small tremulous moments are amplified so much that they often give up on riding bikes altogether.
“The whole balance idea is something that a lot of these kids have trouble with,” Tuli Butske, the mother of a child with Down syndrome said.
Because of this uneasiness many disabled children have with imbalance, parents are often forced to give up hopes of ever removing the training wheels. The nonprofit organization iCan Shine is trying to change that.
The national program travels to various cities to conduct week-long training camps for people with disabilities. According to the organization’s website, over 80 percent of people with autism and 90 percent of people with Down syndrome never get the chance to independently ride a two-wheel bicycle. However, after only five days of 75-minute sessions, almost 80 percent of the nonprofit’s campers are able to defy those odds and ride at least 75 feet without any assistance.
This August, iCan Shine’s program iCan Bike will come to Bloomington for the first time. It costs about $12,000 to bring the camp. In order to raise the money, the organizing committee is partnering with various businesses and nonprofits in the community. Saturday, they benefited from Bloomingfoods’ Bike to Work Day Block Party.
A portion of the money raised at the block party always benefits a different charity. This year, the money went to iCan Bike.
“It seemed like the perfect match,” Rex Tayloe, another member of the organizing committee, said. “It’s been a great event so far. We’ve gotten so much support.”
Around 150 people attended throughout the day, many of whom arrived on bicycles. Tuli said she is especially excited for the camp to come. She’s seen firsthand the effect it can have. Her daughter, Ava Bustke, participated in the program a few years ago in Greenwood, Ind.
“At that age, all the sports were becoming really competitive. They weren’t just about having fun anymore,” Tuli said. “Now biking is her exercise, and it’s her way to feel confident and included. It’s become her favorite part of every summer.”
Each child at the camp is paired with two volunteers. Campers start off riding special bikes with very thick wheels indoors on rollers. As they become more comfortable, the camp staff subtly switches the tires with thinner ones, until they are ?normal-sized.
“The staff finds ways to distract them from the fear,” Tuli said. “When the kids fall, they act like it’s a good thing and say, ‘That is a great fall.’”
The camp will run from August 17-21. Twelve campers have already signed up and 12 spots remain.