Bike Camp helps children with Down syndrome ride down the road to independence

This week, some volunteers helped children with physical and developmental delays learn to ride a bike.

Summer camp is a time for fun, friendship and learning.

This past week some volunteers took that mission to heart and helped children with physical and developmental delays learn to ride a bike.

For some, it was the ride of their lives and the first of many steps down the road to independence.

You may have heard the saying "life is like riding a bicycle" - but for some, there are a few more bumps in the road that must be overcome.

7-year-old Maris is the bouncy, happy apple of her grandfather Cam Henry's eye. 

"When she was born, she just lit up my life," he said.

Now Maris is concentrating and practicing her pedaling because this is where the rubber hits the road.

She's ready to ride in Bike Camp.  

Humming her favorite tune, she slowly starts moving, as volunteers stand on each side, ready to catch her if she falls.

"I was a little worried at first because she was struggling a little bit but she said she really liked it," Henry said.

This year's Bike Camp has 27 riders, ranging in age from 8 to 23, and all with Down syndrome or autism. They come from Central Texas, and across the state - one family even came from Oklahoma for the week-long program.

Special pins in the back of the bikes keep students like Roman from falling over as they find their footing. 

He smiles as a volunteer shouts, "Great job Roman!" 

It's a site the 16-year-old's mom, Janie Duarte, thought she'd never see. 

"I'm a little nervous but I'm excited for him," she said. "If it wasn't for programs like this that are tailored to children with special needs, we never would have thought this was possible."

The Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas and the Austin Autism Society helped put on the camp. The organization iCan Shine provided the special bikes.  

"This is such a challenging skill for a lot of our members, that being able to conquer this gives them the confidence they need to take on other things," said Ashley Whitt of DSACT.

Dozens of volunteers are at the ready, with steadying hands and plenty of praise, as the riders find their groove and glide free with nothing to hold them back.

As she hops off her bike, a beaming Maris says she has a message for her beloved big brother:

"I did it, aren't you proud of me?"   

This is the second time the organizations have held a bike camp.

It costs about $10,000 to make the camp happen, and it's all done by fundraising and donations from the community.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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