Ride On, Bike Campers!

From August 10-14, 2015, 35 children and young adults with special needs and 120 volunteers came together at Soka University for UCP-OC’s annual Bike Camp, hosted in partnership with Down Syndrome Association of Orange County. Learning to ride a bike is a quintessential childhood experience, but it can be especially challenging for children with special needs. Through the iCanShine program’s adapted bikes and specially trained staff, learning to ride a bike goes from a daunting undertaking to a proud accomplishment.

Arissa with her volunteers
Arissa with her volunteers

Bike Camper Arissa is 10 years old and always wanted to learn to ride a bike but was scared to do so. Her grandmother, Anita, stumbled across a page about it while searching online for training wheels. Anita is so glad that Arissa can now ride a bike because she believes that being able to ride a bike is a vital part of being a kid. She will never forget the huge smile of joy on Arrissa’s face when she was riding the bike at camp, especially the tandem bike. Arissa and Anita agree that the volunteers and staff were fantastic – motivational, dedicated, and fun! We hope you enjoy this interview with them.

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Life’s a Journey with CP and Me

Hi Everyone at UCP-OC!katyfd-225x300
Katy here—I just returned from UCP-OC’s bike camp at Soka University in Aliso Viejo (where I am going into my 3rd year for my BA!) For those of you who are unfamiliar with the week-long camp, it is put on by iCanShine, a national organization that provides quality learning opportunities in recreational activities for individuals with disabilities who are determined to learn how to ride a bicycle. The camp is run by UCP-OC and Down Syndrome Association of Orange County and both organizations are very grateful for the support of the Pujols Family Foundation who sponsored the camp.
With the help of some amazing volunteers, the kids spend five days on adaptive bikes in the hope that they will be able to ride a two-wheel bike without any assistance! Having gone on the final day of camp, it was so awesome for me to witness these kids getting out there on two-wheeled bikes for one final ride with confidence with smiles on their faces! I was very proud of these kids with knowing how hard it is to put in the physical effort it takes to succeed like they have.

This experience—although I was not there to witness their entire progress—made me reflect upon my own past when I learned how to ride a bicycle. Having CP, it may seem unlikely that bike riding is actually my favorite form of exercise, but it is true! I did not learn how to ride a bike until I was nearly nine years old (four years later than my twin sis) but I never would have thought that it would become such a fun part of my active lifestyle! The day I learned how to ride a bike is a day I will never forget; my parents woke me up that morning and told me this was the day I was going to ride a two-wheel bicycle. Before then, I just had training wheels and started to feel like I was never going to be rid of them, how embarrasing! My whole family and I took a trip to the boardwalk in Huntington Beach, my hometown, and my dad placed my bike on the side nearest to the sand. He told me to get on my bike, and that he would help me start, but by the end of the day he made me promise that I was going to ride without any help! Looking back, my whole family seemed pretty fearless about my CP—and I think that was a great thing for me at the time! It forced me to continually challenge myself, because everyone around me was always doing the things I wanted to do, but just took longer to learn and adapt to because of my CP. After several scary spills and nose dives into the sand, I became more and more frustrated with my lack of balance, but it motivated me to keep going and I eventually grew more comfortable with the fluidity of my legs and found my rhythm! I was exhausted and probably a little shaken up from the day, but as you may know already, CP comes with its fair shares of scraped knees and hands just from everyday life! Now, biking is the best thing for me; it’s low impact and great cardio! The only adaption I make is adding a foot strap on the left pedal, so my foot won’t slide off in the front. I’ve been riding my beach cruiser around ever since that day and I find it so freeing because I can go much faster than if I was running, and no one would ever know I have a physical disability when I am on a bike!
Looking back, learning how to ride a bike was just the next obstacle that I was determined to overcome at the time and I know myself well enough to admit that I am the type of person to never back down from a challenge, no matter how difficult my CP makes it for me!
That is probably the type of attitude that I’ve carried with me over the years and got me through my years of AYSO soccer, over Yosemite Falls, and into my active lifestyle where I am today. I have had to slow down quite a bit because my CP does make running and rigorous activity difficult; so I just continually adapt myself to what my body can manage on a daily basis! It has taught me to value my body, and has improved my capacity to understand my limitations. I know now that however frustrating they may be—we all have our own limitations whether we set them for ourselves or not. Some people I’ve encountered over the years call me courageous or inspirational, but I prefer to think of myself as a resilient human being… we all have our own struggles to endure—we just have to learn how to better deal with them when we can’t always overcome them, and that’s what my CP has taught me.

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Child of the Month: October

October 2012: Celine

Celine is a very happy and sociable 11 year-old, but over the years Celine has overcome many challenges.  When she was only 4 months old, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor on her right brain.  A surgery was performed to remove the tumor, and another surgery to place a shunt in her brain.  As a result of the tumor and surgeries, Celine is left with mild cerebral palsy.  Today Celine loves to sing, dance and is very observant of others needs and wants to assist in any way she is able. 

After finding out about United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County by way of a flyer, her mother brought Celine to UCP-OC to try out one of our dance recreation classes. Two and a half years later Celine has added gymnastics and Fit Kids to her class schedule. “Gymnastics and the other recreation classes have helped her with her gross motor skills and improved with her coordination, it’s a form of therapy that is disguised to her. She is having fun while socializing and creating relationships with her peers,” states her mother.

This August, Celine participated in our 5th Annual Bike Camp in partnership with Down Syndrome Association of OC. For one week Celine and 40 other children were taught how to ride a bike independently. Campers learned gradually how to ride by using specially adapted bikes that teach the children balance. On the last day the children were given the opportunity to go outside and practice their newfound skill. Through the experience not only did Celine learn how to ride a bike, but it encouraged her older brother to learn as well!