Someone recently asked me what my best memories are of summer. Although I have many, I think that some of my favorites are directly related to when I learned how to ride a bike. When you are a child, riding a bike gives you a sense of freedom that won’t be surpassed until you finally get your driver’s license. When you are a child, it gives you a sense of unlimited travel allowing you to go places you would never be able to go on foot. Based on the number of children that I see riding bikes in my neighborhood, it seems as though riding a bike is one of the few childhood activities that hasn’t been replaced by technology.
For the many parents in our community to try to make childhood as typical as possible for their children with disabilities, riding a bike can be one of the more complicated tasks. However, thanks to Steven and Sally Palmer of Cycle Ability, this is no longer the case. The Palmers brought the Cycle Ability program to Utah by hosting the “icanbike” organization. It started with the intention of helping their son with autism learn to ride and three years later has turned into an annual camp.
According to their website, when their son became the manager for the Corner Canyon High School mountain bike team in Draper, he was unable to ride a bike but was just happy in his role of team manager. At the end of the year, the Palmers were challenged with having their son ride for the team the next year and began their search for resources. At the time, special needs bike camps were being offered all over the U.S. and Canada but not the Intermountain West. The Palmers made the decision to bring the camp to Utah and, with strong community support through sponsors and volunteers, their son and 39 other participants learned to ride a bike.
During the week-long camp that runs from June 19 to 23 at Summit Academy High in Bluffdale. Each day is broken into 75-minute sessions where volunteers will work with each individual with different abilities to develop their riding skills using adaptive bikes. Volunteers will provide assistance with balance and provide enthusiastic encouragement as they practice. The vast majority of riders who graduate from the camp will ride away on a two-wheel bike without assistance.
Dorene Sambado and her daughter were two of the volunteers who assisted in the 2016 camp and have committed to participating again this year. Not only was the experience rewarding on a physical level as they would run alongside of the bikers but they were also rewarded in ways they had not anticipated.
“There are a few openings for students,” states Sambado, “but the biggest need now is for volunteers.”
If you have some extra time this summer and want to make a difference, this is a great volunteer opportunity. Information for participants and volunteers can be found on the website.
A quote by Rikki Rogers on the Cycle Ability website reads, “Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.”
I am sure these words resound most heavily with all of the people who have completed this course and were able to go home and ride their bikes down the summer streets alongside their siblings and peers for the first time.