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Alan’s Story

A life-changing experience on two wheels

This story was provided to us by the team at KidsInclusive – Kingston Health Sciences Centre. Achieve.Belong.Inspire.

The thought of riding a bike brought fear, anxiety, and hesitation to 11-year-old Alan. Having tried for years, the outcome was always the same: more scrapes, falls, and tears.

The shame and frustration of seeing his peers ride joyfully as he stayed back was yet another way that he stood out from the crowd. Would he ever be able to be like his friends? Would he ever be able to have the freedom that they had? Alan had told himself that he would never be like the other kids. Autism and a learning disability had always separated him from the crowd. He had convinced himself that he couldn’t and shouldn’t ever try to ride a bike again.

That all changed when he registered for the iCan Bike Program, provided through KidsInclusive – Kingston Health Sciences Centre. The iCan Bike program was designed by Dr. Richard E. Klein, a mechanical engineering professor, and his students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from more than twenty years of research. This program uses uniquely designed adapted bikes to help each rider obtain their goal of riding a bike independently.

Alan arrived at the program early Monday morning, hesitant and nervous. The fears began to dissipate as he was greeted by his three volunteers who would be with him for the week as his own personal support team. Alan quickly warmed up to their smiles and encouragement.

Day one included learning to ride on a “roller bike” – an adapted bike that allows riders to learn the rhythm of pedaling and balance that is needed to ride a two-wheel bike. The fear of failure was beginning to be replaced by hope. Day two arrived and Alan walked through the door with an extra bounce in his step. He was determined to continue his progress and with the help of his volunteers, he could do just that! Alan’s confidence increased as he biked around the arena, often leaving his volunteers panting behind him trying to keep up.

Day three was the day that riders had their first opportunity to attempt a two-wheel independent. Looking hesitantly at the bike, Alan did not want to feel the frustration and failure that he once associated with riding a bike. With the encouragement of his volunteers, Alan went for it. Within 25 minutes, he was feeling the wind in his hair and was the very first rider to be two-wheel independent!

With near tears in her eyes, Alan’s mom said, “This will change his life forever!” Alan has now been able to join his peers as they venture through the neighborhood on beautiful summer days.

A skill that was once seen as impossible has become one of the greatest joys in Alan’s life. A skill that will continue to build his strength, confidence and independence, Alan is now able to actively participate in the sport of biking.

The iCan Bike program has run in Kingston for three years. The funds provided by GoodLife Kids Foundation this year helped give more kids with special needs the opportunity to learn a skill that will allow them to be active, explore nature, and be physically fit.

GoodLife Kids Foundation raises funds to remove barriers and provide physical activity opportunities for kids with special needs all across Canada, just like Alan. To date, GoodLife Kids Foundation has impacted the lives of more than 254,000 Canadian kids!