Camp helps Utah children with special needs learn to ride a bike

OREM, Utah -- Riding a bike is a big part of being a kid, but it's a tough skill to learn for children with special needs.

But thanks to a program by the United Angels Foundation, the kids are enjoying the ride.

The children are gaining a lot more confidence now that they're learning to ride a bike, and it's a big deal to their parents too.

“I have twin girls with Down syndrome, they're ten years old and they want to do everything that their friends can do, but bike riding has been really hard, so we've needed some help: That's why we're here,” said Julie Thompson, a volunteer with the United Angels Foundation.

A gym at Utah Valley University was closed all week to make way for the Ride to New Heights bike camp. Each day featured five sessions with 25 riders.

The bikes were provided through the I Can Shine program, and each has a special wheel on the back that functions like a high-tech training wheel.

Taylor is one of those who attended the camp.

“You focus on finding your center of gravity and you try to balance on two wheels and not fall down,” he said of cycling.

Often it takes a while for the kids to catch on.

"The first day they come in, they're kind of like a little hesitant, they're kind of scared, they're like 'Who are these people?’” said Jill Austin, executive director of United Angels Foundation. “’Mom, why are you putting me on this bike?' to, by the end of the week, they are just, like, confident."

The camp not only puts smiles on the kids' faces, but warms the hearts of parents.

“Being a parent of a child with special needs myself, just watching your kid learn something that helps them be included,” Austin said.

Each child works with the same two volunteers throughout the camp. Organizers say special needs children learn better with that familiar help.