Program helps disabled children ride bikes for the first time
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.”
As part of its 30th anniversary year and partnership with the Children's Museum of Richmond, Commonwealth Parenting will present a six-part RVA Parents Forum Series to address some of the toughest issues confronting parents.
Parenting experts and family educators will tackle topics ranging from bullying to alcohol, sex to divorce, and technology and stress. Parents will learn how to identify potential problems.
"We're excited about bringing this much-needed forum series to parents in central Virginia. Through our valuable partnership with Commonwealth Parenting, we can have a deeper impact in the community through parent and caregiver education," said Karen Coltrane, president and CEO of the Children's Museum of Richmond. > Read more.
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YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.
Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Inspirational football movie tries too hard for its own good
When the Game Stands Tall is based on a true story – an unbelievable true story that takes the word “inspiring” about as far as it can go.
It’s a film about Bob Ladouceur, coach of the De La Salle High Spartans, a California high school football team with 12 consecutive undefeated seasons (a staggering 151 games won in a row).
Along the way, Ladouceur (played by Jim Caviezel) faced the kind of hardship most football coaches (thankfully) can only imagine – suffering a near-fatal heart attack, the death of a star player, and rebuilding the team after that 151-game streak came to a humiliating end. > Read more.
Enjoy political comedy at its finest with The Capitol Steps at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. Methodist and Baptist churches unite for the fourth annual Mission Footprint 5K, taking place at Trinity UMC. Or in honor of Grandparent’s Day on Sunday, treat them to A Grand Family Affair or maybe a movie – the 1978 film “Superman” is at the Henrico Theatre. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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