Learning how to ride a bike is a quintessential childhood activity. Sadly, for many children with disabilities, that rite of passage can seem nearly impossible. Enter Lose The Training Wheels, a non-profit organization that’s helping kids master the saddle in Brooklyn this August 6-10.
Lose The Training Wheels hosts weeklong camps where kids with disabilities get the help and support they need to learn how to ride a bike with confidence. To that end, the program uses “roller bikes” only available through the organization. The difference is in the wheel: the back wheel is removed and a mechanism that looks like a rolling pin is put on. Eight different rollers are used, graduating from the most stable configuration to the least—without the child even knowing it’s happening.
Director of Finance and Administration Jeffrey Sullivan speaks to why riding a bike is more than a childhood milestone: “It gives [children] a form of recreation and opens up an opportunity for families to do an activity together.” Kids can become more self-confident and learn that they can do whatever they set their minds to.
During each training cycle, Wednesday is “Launch Day,” as Sullivan calls it, where those ready to ride get on a two-wheeler for the first time. By the end of the five-day program, over 80% of participants are able to ride solo.
Lose The Training Wheels has spread nationwide from its 2007 start, with over 80 camps in operation today. There are some requirements to qualify: children must be over age 8 and able to walk without an assistive device, among others.
The organization is expanding to more than just bikes—prompting a name change to iCan Shine, which will take place in the fall. Sullivan says a swimming program is only the beginning of the organization’s growth. “We think there’s an enormous opportunity for more recreational activities,” he says. “It’s often difficult to teach kids with disabilities how to swim. When you go to find swim programs for kids with disabilities, they’re often hard to find or there are wait-lists to get in.” Look out for swimming and subsequent programs later this year.
The beauty in these initiatives is that, as Sullivan says, “It teaches [kids] that if they apply themselves, and they are persistent and dedicate time to it, they can overcome.”
Registration is now open for the August 6-10 Lose The Training Wheels camp in Brooklyn. You can find more information on their website, where you can also donate to the cause. Sullivan estimates that over 90% of donations go directly to program expenses.