Bicyclists take over Copley High School gym for special training camp

AKRON, OH (WOIO) - The auxiliary gym at Copley High School has turned into a training ground for the iCan Bike camp. The Autism Society of Greater Akron is hosting the week-long camp in partnership with the organization iCan Shine. The groups are helping children with disabilities learn how to ride conventional two-wheel bikes. Most of the participants are children and adults with autism and down syndrome.

"You got it, you got it," one of the volunteers is heard saying to one of the riders.

Side-by-side, volunteers guide students cross the glossy gym floor.

"Biking is really fun," said Kyle Garrett, one of the camp-goers.

Garrett is pedaling an adapted bike provided by iCan Shine. It looks like a giant rolling pin that's position on the back of a bicycle similar to training wheels.

"Right now, we're just on these rollers, but we'll eventually go outside," Garrett said. "And, we'll have our bikes to try and there won't be any of these rollers. There will just be two-wheels."

The camp builds motor skills, balance and social skills. Each day different training elements are added.

"It really means a lot because I need to exercise a lot, because I like to eat," Garrett said. "So this is probably one of my favorite ways to exercise behind Pokémon Go."

Keeping up with the riders isn't easy. Natalie Wiswesser is one of the volunteers. She's currently studying psychology and French at the University of Akron. She's been volunteering with the bike camp for several years.

"I love that at the beginning all of the kids are so excited, and by the end they're so motivated," Wiswesser said. "And they're so proud of themselves. It seems like they gain a lot of confidence out of it."

The special equipment, patience, repetition and encouragement drive up the success rate.

The Autism Society of Greater Akron said approximately 85% of those who complete the camp can independently ride a two-wheel bike with no training wheels.

For some, it's a return visit to camp.

"I came here last year, and I didn't learn fully," Garrett said. "But I think I'm going to learn a little bit more this year."

Wiswesser enjoys seeing the smiles and hearing the laughs of the people she works with.

"It makes me really proud to see them being able to do something that makes them happier," Wiswesser said.

Friendships are made along the way and there's usually a few tears at graduation- happy tears.

"I miss them at the end, but they always at the end write us a thank you note," Wiswesser said. "And they all sign it, and I keep those. It's nice."

Garrett is ready to receive his trophy.

"I would really recommend this place," Garrett said.

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