HUNTINGTON - Over the past week, local children with disabilities have been challenging themselves to ditch their training wheels, learning how to ride two-wheel bikes independently in just four days' time.
Marshall University's ninth annual iCanBike Camp, hosted by the College of Health Professions, took place at the Phil Cline Family YMCA in Huntington in partnership with nonprofit charity iCanShine and with the help of volunteers from Marshall and Marathon Petroleum.
While this year's program included fewer riders than usual, it has also been likely the most successful in terms of almost every child's acquired proficiency on two-wheel bikes throughout the week, Liz Pacioles, director of the camp, said.
"None of these kids, before this week, could ride a bike at all, and now they're outside playing races and different games together," Pacioles said. "It's like a whole new level of confidence, so it just kind of opens up a whole new world for them."
The camp lasted just one week, with children training at the YMCA for 75 minutes each day, and nearly every child effectively learned to ride bikes independently by the end of the week, Pacioles said.
The first day of the camp, children started off on "rolling bikes," with a back wheel similar to a rolling pin, she said, then they advanced to different rollers based on stability until they were able to ride on two wheels with a spotter and finally independently.
"Seeing the kids' progress is really awesome, especially over such a short period of time," Pacioles said.
The camp was entirely funded by sponsors and donations, and volunteers from Marshall and Marathon served as helpers and spotters for the children to assist them with their learning, so the camp was actually a community effort, she said.
"We utilize volunteers, and several are staff and faculty from Marshall," Pacioles said. "So they're actually getting a lot out of this as well by working with the children and helping them learn."
One volunteer helping children learn to ride was Sawyer Weekley, a senior health science major at Marshall.
Weekley said throughout the week he had helped children learn skills like building the initial courage to mount a bike, getting used to pedaling and maintaining balance.
"It's really cool to see the kids go from being scared to even sit on a bike to finally being able to ride all by themselves," Weekley said.