This Camp Lets Children With Disabilities Experience The Fun Of A First Bike

Jul 29, 2016

Throughout life, a person experiences many firsts – a first kiss, first pet and even a first bike ride.

“When I started riding a bicycle it was one of those things that was life changing for me,” said 16-year-old Rhys Rocher. “Doing things like being able to go for a bike ride with your family is something that we take for granted and I would love to share that experience with someone else.”  

Rocher is sharing that experience this week by volunteering with The Children’s Institute Amazing Bike Camp. The annual event allows special needs children to learn to ride a bike. 

Rocher helped raise money, worked with Pine Richland High School to secure a space and sent out hundreds of phone calls and texts to find volunteers to run the weeklong camp. The nonprofit iCan Shine brings the bikes and expertise, but volunteers help to run the camp by literally running.

“Most of the time it’s just like a fast walk,” said 16-year-old Anthony Bonifate who has volunteered at the camp for the last four years. “But when they transition to two wheel bikes they go much faster.”

Bonifate made countless loops around the gym spotting the riders as they moved from modified bikes with special stabilizing rollers up to regular two wheel bikes that they get to take home after the camp.

“It’s just a great opportunity to change someone’s life,” Bonifate said.

Nathan Barker, 13, learned to ride at this year’s camp. His mother, Terrianne Barker, said Nathan plays outside with his siblings and his friends, but when it comes to riding bikes around the neighborhood, he’s left behind.

“So I’m hoping the skills he learns through the camp will help him participate a little more,” said Terrianne Barker. 

Barker said as she looks into her son’s future, being able to ride a bike could give him more independence, even allowing him to get to a job.

“The campers are great,” Rocher said. “You just see a lot of smiles from everyone and it makes you feel really great.