FALMOUTH, Maine — A new camp aimed at getting adults and kids with special needs on the road to more independence has wrapped up in Falmouth. The iCan Bike Portland took place at the Casco Bay Arena over the past week. Using specialized adaptive equipment, staff, and volunteers worked with more than 30 participants at the week-long camp.
Developed by the nonprofit iCan Shine, more than 20,000 people with disabilities worldwide have learned to ride since its founding 14 years ago.
Jessica Gurney spent the past several years trying to help her daughter Lauren learn how to ride a two-wheel bike independently.
"I had gone to many bike shops in the state of Maine but nobody knew how to adapt a bike to make her successful," Gurney said.
The 9-year-old has an intellectual disability. Her mom is so grateful iCan Bike Portland came to Maine for the first time. Volunteers and staff utilize specialized equipment as riders begin with different-sized rollers in place of a back tire.
"The first roller is the most stable and doesn't have a lot of sway to it and every time they take a break, the iCan Shine staff can switch out a roller," Betsy Cyr, a pediatric occupational therapist helped bring iCan Bike Portland to Maine, said.
After mastering the rollers, riders practice pedaling and turning skills on a tandem bike. The next couple of days, they work on balance with a grab bar for support.
On the last day of camp, Lauren's hard work paid off when she rode on her own for the very first time. Her mom said it's nothing less than life-changing.
"From Monday, from riding with a roller to today with her riding independently, it's amazing," Gurney said.
An accident on her adaptive bike two years ago left 16-year-old Olivia McDermott afraid of getting back in the saddle. Olivia has Down Syndrome, and after learning new skills and her confidence boosted, the junior at Falmouth High School can't wait to bike with her family this summer.
"I am doing really good. I can go to Acadia with my mom and go camping and do my bike," McDermott said.
iCan Shine said on average, 80% of participants learn how to ride interdependently, plus other skills. Parents of riders who still need support receive training and equipment so they can work on bike skills at home.
iCan Bike Portland is expected to be held annually.