WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. – Learning how to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage, but for children with special needs, there are challenges. But a program in West Bloomfield is helping those children get up and riding on two wheels.
A staffer from the I Can Bike camp was inside the West Bloomfield High School gym for Tandem Tuesday, riding on the back of the bike. In the front was a child riding unsteadily.
"They get the feel of being on the front of the bike and someone sits behind them and steers," Friendship Circle Program Manager Erin Berry said.
Soon the tandem bicycles will be history and around 40 campers with special needs will ride on their own. It's a tried and true method in which the back wheel is taken off and replaced with special rollers.
"The rollers get changed out, but more and more they have to balance and get the feel of a two-wheel bike," Berry said.
Patti Irwin got emotional watching her son, Ryan.
"I cried twice already," Irwin said.
Irwin said it's the smile on his face and the fact that he's doing something he couldn't do before that makes her emotional.
"He's going to ride his bike with his brothers and sisters and mom and dad," Irwin said.
Tonya Melton said her third-grade daughter, Sonni, has been through a lot already in her young life, so riding a bicycle like other children will mean everything to her.
"She's in elementary school, and being able to tell her friends, 'I ride a bike too,'" Melton said.
The I Can Bike camp is part of the national I Can Shine organization. No matter the activity, the program makes it about when the children can learn, not what they can't do.
Cierrah Gardener, 13, is proof. She said she just wanted to ride a bicycle by herself.
"I ride by myself," Cierrah said.
The camp concludes Friday at the track, where children will be on their own bicycles and feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
The I Can Bike program was brought to West Bloomfield through Friendship Circle, a nonprofit organization that supports 3,000 individuals with special needs and their families.