Special needs bike camp helps kids in Clovis

FRESNO, Calif.

Roughly 40 special needs kids are enjoying a nice bike ride indoors this week. Most of them before this bike camp couldn't even stay on their bikes. But with the help from Break the Barriers in Fresno, these kids are learning how stay on a bike all by themselves.

"If you listen to the parents. They say now they can ride with their brother, their sister. All our cousins can ride a bike but they don't," Debbie Hergenrader said. "When they go back to school, they're going to say this is what I did this summer. Learn to ride a bike. It's just crazy how riding a bike can connect a community."

Close to 90 volunteers from the Central Valley Cycling Club are offering their time and effort to get these kids to ride without training wheels. So it's no surprise the two men brought in from Chicago to teach the camp are from the national campaign called "Lose the Training Wheels".

"We use a roller system," AJ Budney said. "The roller that they started on Monday is very similar to a rolling pin. So it's very flat and then as the week progresses and as they progress, we move them up to a higher roller. So it becomes a little more tapered on the end."

The combination of this unique approach and the volunteers allows these kids to be kids. Fresno mom Karen Maroot's son Charlie has autism. She and other parents say this experience is such a rush that many of us without special needs children may never understand.

"I'm glad actually that your cameras weren't here when he first started riding. I think he started walking through, but I mean I burst into tears of happiness just watching him with that joy that, thrill of riding bike," Maroot said. "Now the fear is going to be chasing him around the neighborhood, but it's exciting to see children be children."

Children with special needs and autism in particular lack social skills necessary to integrate with others. But spend just a few minutes at this bike camp and you wouldn't have ever known this place was a camp for special needs kids. Here at Clovis North High School, they're just plain special.

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