Pedal Power

Maureen had little hope that volunteers last summer with Lose The Training Wheels could teach her son how to ride a two-wheel bike. She’s thrilled to admit she was wrong.

In less than a week, 12-year-old James and other young people with developmental disabilities were pedaling across the parking lot of Christian Fellowship Church, mastering a skill that five days earlier seemed impossible. At Lose The Training Wheels, kids with disabilities learn to balance, pedal, steer and take off on their own, many in five days or less – an accomplish that participating parents say is incredible.

“It’s a very well thought out program,” Maureen said. “They take one task at a time and build on it.”

This was the second year for the camp in Columbia, which is held at Christian Fellowship Church, where riders practice in the gym and outside on the parking lot. As assistant director of the PedNet Coalition in Columbia, Michelle Windmoeller oversees the local camp, which more than doubled its participants this summer from 13 to 27. She credits the success to the support of Boone County Family Resources, which can use adaptive recreation funds to help families enroll their children in the program.

“That has made this camp possible,” Windmoeller said.

Each participant – who must be at least 8 and have a disability – is assigned a 75-minute riding lesson with “spotters” for up to five days. They ride specially equipped bikes that help them gain balance, gradually moving toward conventional bicycles and independent riding. The Lose The Training Wheels bike program has grown from one camp and one fleet of bikes in 1999 to 79 camps across the U.S. and Canada and eight fleets of bikes in 2010.

The mission of the program is to teach individuals with developmental disabilities how to ride a conventional bicycle and become lifelong independent riders. The achievements, in turn, help participants gain confidence and self-reliance in other aspects of their lives.

To put your child on a waiting for camp next summer, e-mail Windmoeller at michelle@PedNet.org. Official enrollment begins in January.

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