Minn. Camp Teaches Kids With Down Syndrome to Ride Bikes

Posted at: 07/26/2013 11:49 AM
Updated at: 07/26/2013 7:18 PM
By: Josh Rosenthal

It's a big week for 10-year-old Connell McKeown.

"Pretty happy go lucky kid," said his mom, Jennifer. "Loves to swim. Loves to play with his dog and his siblings. You know, pretty typical."

Except Connell can't ride a bike. It's not easy for any child, but it's even tougher for Connell and the other kids at a unique Twin Cities summer camp. They have down syndrome.

"There's still a lot of anticipation. Like what will he look like on Friday? Will we still be practicing a little or will he just be flying? I don't know," wondered mom Jennifer on Wednesday. We'll come back to that in a minute.

First, here's a little more info about the camp: it's called iCan Bike Camp, and it lasts a full week. Campers start out on specialized bikes that help them balance, and their goal is to be on a regular two-wheel bicycle by the end of it. Keep in mind though, nearly every one of the campers has tried to ride before, but they haven't had any luck.

"It's something that most people take for granted," explained Camp Director Mary Hauff. "We just do it."

So how did Connell do? By Friday, after one week of iCan Bike Camp, he was on two-wheels.

"He's got it. He's got it," smiled Connell's mom as she watched him peddle by. "So I mean my heart is just a flutter watching these kids, and you know thinking 'oh we'll get a family bike ride in before the end of the summer.'"

The really good news is the McKeown's won't be the only family getting in that ride.

"How did it make you feel when you rode around the track all by yourself?," Allyson Perling asked her daughter Netta.

Netta responded, "good!"

Karla Stoedter said, "this has been a great week for him and for me," before her son, Jacob, ran off to get back on his bike.

If you'd like to help support the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota, they're holding a fundraiser -- called Tee It Up for Down Syndrome -- on August 5.