Once Sean Frain saw the joy that the iCan Shine program brought to his son, he knew he needed to share it.
Frain took Liam, who was born with Down syndrome, to the program’s session in Bismarck, N.D. last summer. The program teaches people, generally children, with various physical and intellectual challenges, how to ride bikes in five 75-minute sessions over the course of a week. There are five sessions of eight riders each day.
"He had training wheels on his bike, and we worked on it for close to eight years trying to get him going," Frain, a Windsor Park resident, said of Liam. "A lot of other families’ experiences are the same.
"This might be the one thing that helps the kids get over that edge, and it helps with their confidence, to achieve that."
Frain, 42, and his wife Lori were so impressed with the program that they held a bud, spud, and steak dinner and solicited sponsorships from local businesses and service group to cover the $14,000 cost of bringing the program to Manitoba for the first time. The sessions took place at East St. Paul Arena from July 28 to Aug. 1 with help from over 50 local volunteers.
Frain noted several attendees at the camps will likely never be able to get a driver’s licence, so cycling safely is a practical form of transportation. He added there’s a fun side to it, as riders can finally go out with family and friends.
"When all the kids were eight years old, all the kids were riding away on their bicycles," Frain said.
"It wasn’t fun for me," added Liam, 15.
People taking part in the program face challenges such as vision issues and low muscle tone, but participants must be able to walk independently, side-step both ways, be at least eight years old, 22 inches tall, and weigh no more than 220 pounds.
Paoli, Penn.-based iCan Shine (formerly known as Lose the Training Wheels) sends two staff members and roller bikes, which have back wheels that look like a paint roller to provide stability and a handlebar at the back of the bike for spotters to grab if necessary. Riders use the roller bikes earlier in the week to get comfortable on a bike, ride with a staff member on Tandem Tuesday, and those who are comfortable later in the week ‘launch’ on two-wheelers anywhere from Wednesday to Friday, including outdoor riding.
The program brought joy to a Waverley Heights family, as Tricia Kell’s children, Jeff and Tammy Hardt (aged 41 and 38, respectively) were able to cycle. Both suffered brain damage as children after being hit by cars in separate incidents nine years apart. Jeff was five when he was hit and had never ridden a bike before, while Tammy was 12 at the time of her accident when she was struck while riding her bicycle.
Speaking at the second session on July 29, Kell said both kids were already benefiting.
"Jeffrey was ecstatic," Kell said. "As soon as he found out about bicycles, that’s all he ever wanted to do.
"We tried everything we possibly could, and couldn’t get him to ride… (Monday, the first day), I don’t think he’s smiled that much in years."
Even though Tammy’s accident happened while on her bike, Kell said it hasn’t deterred her from wanting to ride again.
"Her bike was everything to her," she said. "When she came out of the coma and started walking and talking again, she wanted her bike."
Frain is pondering bringing the program back in 2015. Those looking for more information can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org