Diana Rovetti said that when she hosted her first iCan Bike Camp in 2013, she was motivated by her own struggles to teach her son with Down Syndrome how to ride a bicycle.
Rovetti, Project Coordinator at the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities, won an award from the Nevada Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board with the Nevada Department of Transportation for outstanding leadership and service for bringing iCan Bike Camp to Nevada. The Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities is a program in the College of Education.
The iCan Bike Camp teaches children eight years old and up, teens and adults with a developmental disabilities to ride a bicycle. Participants attend a five day camp of 75-minute sessions each day. Rovetti has held the camp in Reno six times and once in Las Vegas.
Rovetti, initially got the idea to start the bike camp in Reno after attending a conference. “I saw this non-profit advertising that they had an 80% success rate of teaching kids how to ride a two-wheeler,” she said. “I thought that was a needed service in Nevada, not just for my family, but for many families who are raising a child with a developmental disability.”
The iCan Bike Camp uses customized bike equipment to gradually teach participants all of the processes that go into riding a bike, from balancing to peddling to going fast enough to stay upright.
“[The specialized bikes] have rollers for the back wheel that are changed out throughout the process to become more unstable,” Rovetti said. “The first roller put on the bicycle is only slightly tapered so anyone can easily stay upright on the bike. As the riders get more comfortable and start peddling, the rollers are changed to increase the instability until the rider has a good balance. After they have mastered the rollers, riders are assisted to start riding on two-wheels.”
“Every year on day three, many of the parents are in tears when we start putting their riders on two wheels”
Learning to ride a bike grants people with disabilities an opportunity to enjoy an activity with their family and friends, improve their self-confidence, exercise and increase their independence.
“The first year I held the bike camp in Reno, a young man about 25-years-old came up to me and said, ‘I'm just so happy I can ride a bike now because now my mom doesn't have to take me to work anymore.’
“It's important for people with disabilities to be included in the community. I think this just gives them another opportunity to be able to participate fully and to be like everyone else. People with disabilities are more alike than different than us and have the same desires for their life as we have for ours.”
Rovetti will tentatively two camps this summer. The iCan Bike Camp in Gardnerville, Nevada will be held at the Douglas County Community Center from June 8 to June 12. The iCan Bike Camp in Reno will be held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center from June 15 to June 19.
Participants are required to own a bicycle, but some donated bicycles can be provided to riders. Scholarships can be offered to some families who are unable to pay the price to attend the camp.