Adaptive Bike Project gets special kids rolling

In July, Youth en Route applied for a “Return to Play grant from KidsSport Alberta that was funded through the Alberta government. Our goal was to provide bikes to special needs classes in High Schools across the city and give these students an opportunity to learn to ride.

We’re now delivering our report to the funders – and can share our success.

We delivered 19 adaptive tricycles to seven Calgary High Schools – and those bikes are being ridden by a range of kids in special needs classes. Of the $15,000 cash grant, over $8,500 was spent on bikes and equipment. Another $2,500 was spent on services like bike mechanics. We had close to $5,000 donated in goods and services, including 55 hours of volunteer time from the seniors at the Greater Forest Lawn Seniors Centre.  Glen Bishop assembled eight  of the bikes himself!

Most teachers report they are using the trikes every day providing students with an awesome opportunity for fitness, recreation and fun. To date, most of the riding has been indoors, but we expect teachers will use the bikes outside when the sidewalks, pathways and parking lots clear of snow.

Learning as we go!

Student cruising the hallway at Lester Pearson High School

One of our strategies was to order the bikes in two batches. This gave teachers some time to see how their students did on the bikes and ensured we spent funds on the styles and sizes of bikes that made the most sense.

Most students felt the most comfortable on the 24-inch traditional trikes. We added push bars on the back – to allow teachers and aides to keep better control of things.

“It’s not often that we need to push, we’re mostly using it to slow them down, “ said Central Memorial Special Education teacher Erin Hlynsky. Students at Central have been riding them in the hallways as they pick up recycling and do lunch deliveries.

What’s encouraging is the most teachers report that the bikes are being well-used by a number of students.   CSSI and TASC classes usually have six students – and teachers report that about half of their students are able to use the bikes. In some other special learning classes, all 20 kids have tried riding.

Providing support for teachers, too

When we ask what will get more students riding? Teachers tell us they need more time with the equipment to allow students time to get used to being around the bikes. We also arranged for Professional Development sessions with the bike experts from Cerebral Palsy Kids and Families. We hope to continue this support into the future.

And when kids get a chance to ride, the experience can be life-changing. One student at Robert Thirsk started going to CP Kids and Families Learn to Ride program because of our partnership and work at the school.

We were thrilled to get this email.

“I just wanted to say a giant thank you,” wrote teacher Melissa Karimwabo. “I just received an email from one of my student’s parents and he is attending the CP kids bike workshops. Anyways the video was of him riding a two wheel bike!! She was so happy to see her son do this. This is all because of having the bikes in the class and that’s all thanks to you.”

But one time funding means we can’t continue

Volunteer Glen Bishop with trike

Now, the problem.

After stories appeared on CTV news, and Livewire, we were inundated with calls from Junior High Schools wanting access to bikes. And we know that the 19 bikes we’ve delivered still haven’t met all the needs in high schools.

We also know that bikes break down, need repairs and teachers and students change. The need for professional development and support for schools doesn’t end. Kidsport tells us this funding was one-time only.

We’re looking for a sponsor (s)  to support our Adaptive Bike Project next year. What a great way to get these kids riding and show to everyone that bikes empower youth! Please reach out if you or your business would like to support this important programming.

Main photo credit: Aryn Toombs, Livewire Calgary

In the gym at Robert Thirsk
Riding the Mobo at Thirsk
Riding at Beaaverbrook with some help to get going

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