Kennewick summer camp helps kids with disabilities ride bikes

KENNEWICK, Wash. – Studies show that many children who live with a disability like Autism or Down Syndrome never learn how to ride a bike; iCan Bike in Kennewick, hopes to end that.

“It’s amazing. He wouldn’t put his feet on the pedals until we came here,” Mari Froehlich who brought her son to the camp at the Southridge Sports Complex.

The camp in Kennewick started on Monday and lasts an entire week. For three years, the Horse Heaven Hills Kiwanis Club has hosted iCan Bike, besides 2020, because of pandemic restrictions.

“iCan Shine is an international nonprofit that the Kiwanis Club of the Horse Heaven Hills partners with to bring this camp here. So, we start on these specialized bikes kind of just getting comfortable with balance and pedaling. By Wednesday, most of the kiddos are on two wheels in here, and then by Friday they’re on two wheels, on their own bicycles outside, riding,” Dawn King, with the Kiwanis Club explained.

King said it takes a lot to put on this camp; they have 21 riders who each require two volunteers to help them. In addition to that, iCan Shine, the nonprofit, sends two representatives to the city where the camp is being hosted. King thank all of their corporate sponsors who donate thousands of dollars to make the camp possible.

Froehlich, who’s grandson Alex has Down Syndrome, said they’re grateful camp wasn’t cancelled this year. Alex is staying with his grandparents just so he can attend iCan Bike.

“Last year he was gonna come and it was cancelled because of COVID, so we were so excited and it’s just been as good as we’d hoped,” she said.

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“It was heartbreaking to not to get to have it last year, so it means so much more to be able to have it this year,” King added.

Mari said they’ve struggled to get Alex on a bike, and now, they’re hopeful he’ll be able to join his peers on a special cycle.

“We’ve tried so many bikes, and different kinds of bikes, all kinds of bikes and now, we also know what kind of bike to get him, and the technician is helping with that, and he seems encouraged and I think he might be proud of himself,” Mari said.

“Just to see the riders and their confidence, and their ability to, that they didn’t even realize they had and then to see the parents and caregivers that are here with them, who have tried for so many years to ride a bike and not successfully, so it’s just, it’s lifechanging,” Dawn added.

When asked about her grandson finally learning to ride a bike, her eyes welled with tears.

It’s hard to describe, any accomplishment for him you know, is great,” she said.