“If I had a million dollars, I would have given a million dollars for this,” said the mother of a 10-year-old boy as she watched him whiz around the Tab Ramos Sports Center in Aberdeen. The boy, diagnosed with cognitive delay and ADHD, was riding a bicycle for the first time in his life.
The youngster was one of 35 special-needs children participating in a weeklong iCan Bike camp sponsored by the Friendship Circle of Central Jersey (names have been withheld to preserve their privacy). The FC is a program of Chabad of Western Monmouth County that provides support — mostly through the service of teen volunteers — for families affected by disability.
Each day, from June 24 to 28, Kevin Crenshaw and Lily Gross, professionals from iCan Shine — a nonprofit group located in Paoli, Pa., that sponsors the biking program — conducted five 75-minute sessions, each with an average of seven participants. One step at a time, they taught the kids how to progress from bicycles with specialized roller stabilizers in place of a back wheel to a point where they were able to ride solo on a standard two-wheeler. Some kids were able to master tandem bike-riding with one of the counselors.
“One of our major goals is to instill confidence. It’s a joy to see the kids light up when they realize they can do this,” said Crenshaw.
Numerous volunteers — each rider was accompanied by two spotters — provided key assistance to make the iCan Bike camp a success, said Chana’le Wolosow, director of the Friendship Circle, which is housed at the WMC Chabad House on Wickatunk Road in Manalapan. Wolosow praised the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County and The Marks Family Foundation, of East Aurora, NY, for helping to subsidize the program and keeping the participants’ cost at $200 for the entire week. Space for the program was donated by the Tab Ramos facility, Wolosow said.
Noting that his mother is “very involved with federation,” Jay Teitelbaum, managing partner of the sports center, said he was happy to be able to contribute to such “a worthwhile experience for these children.”
Some 2,500 special-needs youngsters took part in iCan Shine programs in 2012. They were offered in 32 states and two Canadian provinces, said Crenshaw. “About 80 percent of the participants can ride independently by the fifth day of training,” he said.
“The program is awesome,” said a parent whose 11-year-old son initially was reluctant to come. By day two, he was smiling broadly, proud of what he’d been able to achieve.
Wolosow said the FC biking program is dedicated to the memory of the late Audrey Strumeier, whose family has become very close to the Chabad community since her death in 2009.