Spring Break Means a New Skill for these Young People
May 2022 Issue
Story and Photography by Kelly Hunter
“What did you do over Spring Break?”
This question was asked and answered thousands of times last month, but 20 local young people with developmental disabilities had a particularly exciting answer: “I learned to ride a bike!”
SOAR (Social Opportunities & Active Recreation) is a nonprofit organization that provides recreational opportunities for citizens with developmental disabilities in Glynn and McIntosh counties. Through their Special Sports Support Program, SOAR brought the iCan Bike program to Brunswick again this year. More than 100 five-day iCan Bike camps are held annually in 32 states and Canada. Using custom-designed adaptive bike equipment, 3,000 people with disabilities (ages 8 and up) learn to ride a conventional two-wheel bicycle each year. Each camp participant attends camp for 75 minutes each day for five consecutive days, where they are supported by two volunteers.
The most recent camp was held at Risley Middle School in Brunswick, where we were able to observe several riders showing off their new skills after only four days. One especially helpful and exciting aspect of the local camp sponsored by SOAR is each rider leaves with a new bike and helmet that has been set up just for them. For many iCan Bike camps, the staff set aside time to advise parents on purchasing the most appropriate equipment for their riders. SOAR’s program of gifting riders with equipment allows the staff to focus all their time on instruction.
You made a dream come true for a little boy!
SOAR offers the camp and equipment through the generous support of local organizations like St. Simons Island Rotary Club, Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation, The United Way of Coastal Georgia, and hello Goodbuy (thrift store ministry of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church). What a difference this program has made for the 20 riders and 40 volunteers who participated!
At the end of the week, volunteers and parents of riders filled out surveys about their experiences. According to one volunteer, “The energy was amazing!” Another observed that “The riders were happy and enjoyed their experience.” One parent was incredibly grateful to the program, saying, “You made a dream come true for a little boy!”
We spoke to Scott Bachman, whose son Jack learned to ride during the camp. He told us, “It’s one step of independence.” He also got excited about a new way to spend time with his son. “I’ve got an old beach cruiser that’s been sitting so long, I’ve got to pump up the tires and pressure wash it,” he laughed, “but now that he’s got a bike, maybe we can go for a ride around the neighborhood.”
What’s next for SOAR’s Special Sports
The SOAR Swim Camp will be offered at the Brunswick YMCA June 6-10 in the afternoons. The camp is designed for those ages 4 and older with special needs. Volunteers are needed for this program that offers water safety, water exploration, social interaction and the foundation for swimming to participants.