It’s Aug. 8, and Wendy Witteman is one proud mom.
She sits in the bleachers of the VFW Sports Center hockey rink in Bismarck, ND, and watches as her son, Jason, rides a bike by himself for the first time.
Jason has ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and has struggled to ride bike for a while. Watch Jason’s progress in this video.
“We’ve been trying for four years to get him to ride a bike without training wheels,” she says. “This is the first thing that’s actually doing him some good.”
Jason’s progress is made possible by the iCan Bike camp, which travels to multiple communities and helps individuals with disabilities learn to rock two wheels on their own.
Witteman has made daily trips from Minot during the five-day event, and doesn’t want to miss a moment of her son’s progress.
“Just the smile on his face and watching his confidence just bloom has just been wonderful,” she says.
That smile is also made possible by a Basin Electric volunteer.
Not far from Witteman, Jason’s mentor, Amy Spilman, stops to catch her breath as the 10-year-old pedals forward on his own.
“The first day, he was kind of wobbly. He just got better and better,” says Spilman, Basin Electric property and right of way specialist. “It’s been remarkable.”
Spilman’s daughter, Katie, immediately tags in for her mom and jogs behind Jason as he circles the rink.
The experience of teaching Jason how to ride certainly hits close to home for Spilman.
“It’s like our own child learning how to ride,” she says.
Spilman and her daughter were among about 70 volunteers who made the iCan Bike camp possible this year, a reality that camp director Heather Lundeen is proud of.
Lundeen says the program first came to Bismarck last year, and it has proven extremely helpful for aspiring riders.
“We’re very happy to have the community support,” Lundeen says as upbeat music pumps from speakers surrounding the rink. “This is the first day anybody goes out on two wheels by themselves.”
Throughout the iCan Bike camp, two volunteers are assigned to each rider during four daily sessions. Many students start off using specialized rollers that are attached to the back of a bike, and technicians slowly adjust the rollers as the week progresses.
It’s a system that holds special meaning for Lundeen, as well as many others.
“Bike riding and mobility for all is pretty near and dear to my heart,” she says, adding that her cousin and goddaughter has Down syndrome.
The program is sponsored by Designer Jeans, of which Lundeen has been a board member for more than five years. She also works as a pediatric physical therapist.
Lundeen says the program is helpful because bike riding is a doorway to many key parts of life, such as social events, travel, recreation and leisure.
Within the rink, and outside in the sunshine, other students can be seen putting their best feet forward as spectators share cheers and encouragement from the sidelines. Amid all the excitement, Witteman is sold on the idea of entering her other son, who has autism, in the program next year.
Thanks to the help from volunteers like the ones from Basin Electric, he can enjoy a chance at success.
“These people are just so excited to help,” Witteman says. “This is so worth it.”