Wheel power

Program helps disabled children ride bikes for the first time
A volunteer assists as a youngster takes control of a two-wheel bike for the first time, during the ‘Lose the Training Wheels’ event Aug. 16 at the University of Richmond.

Thirteen-year-old Kemani grinned from ear to ear as he successfully experienced the exhilaration of riding a two-wheel bike for the first time at University of Richmond’s Weinstein Center on Aug. 16. His smile was provided courtesy of “Lose The Training Wheels,” an event sponsored by the Richmond Hope Foundation that opens up a gateway of opportunities for children with disabilities. The room was filled with joyous parents and volunteers witnessing pivotal childhood moments. Thirty-one children participated in the week-long event, which offered them the freedom and confidence that comes with riding a bike.

“We had been struggling for years to teach him how to ride a bike,” said Kemani’s mother, Noire. “It’s been amazing – he’s riding around, feeling confident, excited every day to come and he’s come further than I have in years with him in four days.

“What you see now was impossible before. He couldn’t get the concept of balance. But the bike itself trains them and lets them know that they have a part in that but allows them to brake themselves. There’s no pressure. They see the other children, and it’s very motivating. Everyone here is so caring and loving and patient.”

Lose the Training Wheels is a non-profit organization that teaches children with disabilities how to ride a conventional two-wheeled bicycle and become independent riders for life. The program travels across the country coordinating camps in different cities and offers 75-minute sessions. Its success is linked to adaptive bicycles,
created by Dr. Richard Klein, that have rollers instead of a back wheel.

When the children first arrive, many have fear and anxiety about riding a bike. But the roller allows them to be successful from the beginning, instilling confidence immediately. As the children get more comfortable and their speed and balance improve, the rollers are changed to more tapered rollers, which require more balance and offer
a little less stability each time.

Most people are familiar with riding a bike, but for those with disabilities it can be a frustrating task that seems nearly impossible. The success rate of Lose the Training Wheels is high: about 90 percent of children that participate in the program master bike riding skills in less than a week. The feeling of achievement helps them gain assurance, independence, social skills and a positive outlook while riding without wheels and experiencing the thrill.

During the week-long event, participants are paired with one or two volunteers – typically teens – who stay with them throughout the program. In a short period of time, a bond is formed and the relationship between the rider and volunteer is a sincere friendship that seems to motivate the kids to do better.

Andrea Patrick, 24, is an employee of Lose the Training Wheels and has been working with the program for three years.

“This is honestly the most amazing thing I have ever been a part of,” Patrick said. “We meet people for a week and see their lives change. They learn to ride a bike, they gain confidence, they get to be included with peers and families going on bike rides, increase in their self-esteem, and they’re proud of themselves. It’s a really neat thing to see the effect on the participants and the families and how proud they are of them. It’s neat to see how many people it affects positively.”

Richmond Hope Foundation raised the funds to bring Lose the Training Wheels to the Metro Richmond community for the fourth year in a row. RHF’s goal is to sponsor children for life-changing physical therapy services that enrich each child’s life, while helping their families by providing financial assistance to those in need.

At the beginning of the week, the children bring in their bikes and a tech fits each one to the child. On the last day of the camp, each child “graduates” by riding a bike without training wheels for the first time. A family member accompanies each rider, and each participant receives a medal, a t-shirt and a picture of himself or herself on two wheels.

Cindy Sharp, director of development for RHF, was excited to bring the program back.

“Sometimes there’s not much offered to the special needs community in terms of recreation,” Sharp said. “But this gives them self-esteem and it transcends to all aspects of their daily life, as well as health issues, cardio, building up muscles and being able to have control themselves. It has been very well received. If you see them on Monday and then on Friday, it’s amazing.”

Reynolds CC to host sculptor Paul DiPasquale

Reynolds Community College will host Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale Sept. 28 as he shares his presentation “Art Talk, Why Art Matters” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Conference Center Gallery of the Workforce Development and Conference Center on the Parham Road Campus, located at 1651 E. Parham Road in Richmond. This event is free and open to the public. > Read more.

Free children’s clothing for those in need

The Children's Clothing Closet at Highland Springs United Methodist Church will be open Saturday, Aug. 27 and Tuesday, Aug. 30 to provide free new or nearly new children's clothing for families in need, prior to the start of the school year. The Clothing Closet will be open from 10 a.m. to noon both days. The church is located at 22 North Holly Avenue. > Read more.

Theme for this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter announced

The theme for the annual Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Lakeside has been announced.

This year's event, which opens Nov. 25 and will continue through Jan. 9, will explore "Living Color" and show how the world's kaleidoscope of colors speaks to people, impacts nature and influences culture, according to Garden officials. The event features more than a half million lights, botanical decorations, trains, holiday dinners, family activities and more. > Read more.


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Gayton Crossing Shopping Center will host the 19th annual Pumpkin Festival from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Enjoy trick-or-treating with Gayton Crossing merchants, a special Henrico Police Halloween celebration, Henrico Fire truck interactive display, meet-and-greet with local mascots (including Nutsy the Flying Squirrel, Rompy from Romp ‘n Roll, Rodney the VCU Ram, and others), food and more. Admission is free. For details, visit http://www.gaytoncrossing.com. Full text

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