Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area's bike program steers independence for community members

Lyanne Melendez Image
Friday, July 29, 2022
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Laura von Savoye of Down Syndrome Connection drives confidence by teaching those with disabilities how to ride bikes in just one week.

EAST BAY, Calif. (KGO) -- Learning to ride a bike can be the first step to feeling freedom and gaining confidence.

Laura von Savoye and her team of volunteers at Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area, in partnership with Rotary 5160, started the iCan Bike program to pave a path of independence for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"People with Down syndrome, 90% of them never learn to ride a bicycle," explained von Savoye.

With every biking session, community members feel a sense of accomplishment as they pedal toward a brighter future. In fact, 60-80% of participants leave the camp riding independently. Those who would like more practice are provided with the tools to keep the program going at home.

"We have a series of rollers, so they're on our roller bikes," explained Kaitlyn Schmidt.

A device that's shaped like a rolling pin is placed on the back of the training bike to stabilize it until the rider becomes more comfortable. With more practice, the participant transitions to a two-wheel bike.

"For me, it's a milestone for him," explained Adela Rosado, a mother of a participant. "This is something that for me is so big."

iCan Bike programs are for individuals with disabilities ages 8 and up, with camp sessions occurring predominantly in the summer months and during week-long school breaks.

"We have about 100 camps per summer, we go to 36 different states and about four provinces in Canada," said Schmidt. "And we just travel around from June, July, and August changing lives."

"For our members with Down syndrome, most of them will never get a driver's license, so this will be their primary form of transportation and independence that they've never had," said von Savoye. "So now, they're no longer dependent, they're independent and that's what we're all about."

To learn more and support iCan Shine programs, visit here.

Go here to learn more about Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area.

To see more ABC7 Allies in Action, visit here.