Sunday, August 14, 2016

Learning to Ride a Bike at an iCanBike Camp

 This summer I worked as a volunteer at an  iCan Bike which is a specially designed camp  for those with disabilities to learn to ride a bike.  Learning to ride a bike can often be a real challenge for anyone but especially for many who have special needs.  iCan Shine is the parent organization for iCan Bike. They also offer iCanSwim camps and iCanDance camps as well.

The Eastside YMCA  organized and hosted the camp.  This was year four that the YMCA has partnered with iCan Shine to bring this unique opportunity to the Greenville area.  Lindsay Buckles, a development specialist for the Y, said that several years ago the Downs Syndrome Family Alliance of Greenville 

approached the YMCA with the idea of making the iCan Bike camp a reality for the Greenville area. Many of the riders who attend camp learn about it through connections with the Down's Family Alliance and also through the other disability support groups that exist in the Upstate.

Sam and Manda
The week long summer camps are designed to teach folks of all ages with disabilities how to ride a bike. Adults as well as children attend the camps to learn the skills necessary to have the freedom to be able to ride a bike independently.  The camp is broken into five different 75 minutes sessions each day.  Most of the riders learn to ride a bike if they are able to come every day to their designated session. A few will need extra help at home or they might come back the next year for more instruction.

 I found out about this volunteer activity through our church's newsletter. Grace encourages those who are a part of the fellowship to be out in the community serving.   I reasoned that this was a small something that I could do.  I had visions of younger children needing  just a little help.  I have often found myself in over my head and this foray was no different.  Spotting budding bike riders is not for the faint at heart, especially as their skills literally take off.

On Sunday there was a training session at Taylor's First Baptist in the Recreation Center  The volunteers got an introduction to the program and some information about the schedule for the week.  The number one priority of the camp is to keep the riders safe while building each riders skill.   We met Manda, the floor supervisor and Sam the bike technician who keeps the bikes in working order and makes sure that the bikes are comfortable and safe for each rider.  Manda  lives in Virginia where she works as special education teacher. Sam is a college student from Ohio.  He started as a volunteer in the program when he was just a  preteen.

Tandem bike time
Manda gave us a little of the history of iCan Bike.  Dr. Richard Kline, a former professor of engineering, designed the specially made bikes to mimic the motion of riding a bike but with the safety of training wheels. Dr. Kline hand makes each of these special training bikes with just the help of family members and has an exclusive contract with the iCan Shine program.  His website explains the unique limitations that our present patent system burdens those who wish to innovate and why he has to limit his wonderful inventions.

Instead of a back wheel, the riders start out with rollers on the back and then they move to a more streamlined roller that helps the rider feel that wobble of a real biking experience.  The volunteers work as spotters who on the first day simply walk with the riders.  As the rider becomes more confident, the spotters jog along side.  On Tuesday, the tandem bike comes out and each rider is given the opportunity to be on the front of the tandem and get that "wind in the hair feeling" of riding a bike. On Tuesday most of the riders are on the second stream lined roller.  By Wednesday, the riders are introduced to a specially designed bike with two wheels. Manda or Sam walked along side the bike providing a little assistance to keep the rider balanced.  They then ran alongside and pushed the rider off on their own while they continued to run along side. The rider was turned back over to the volunteers to run alongside and keep the rider from taking a spill.  It is super important for those with disabilities not to get hurt.  Many of them have already experienced frustrations and fears in learning to be a bike rider. This was the day I passed my physical limitations. It was humbling for this old lady not to be able to keep up, but it was also exciting to see how the riders were gaining confidence and speed.   Thankfully, we had new volunteers to randomly show up.  Those in their teens and in their twenties were able to stay up with the riders better than I could.   On Thursday the riders went outside to get the feel of a rougher terrain as they graduated to bikes with hand brakes and pedal brakes.  Manda and Sam monitored  each rider throughout the week giving suggestions to create a higher degree of success. By Friday, most of them were riding on the bike that they would take home from the program.

 The families were encouraged to take to the floor and spot their own child so that they felt comfortable as their child gained more skills at home.  The YMCA foundation provided funding for each rider to take home a brand new bike. I loved seeing the confidence build on the riders' faces as they found success through this amazing program.  I loved seeing the smiles on the volunteers faces as well.

More Volunteers
The program would not be successful without the hard work of Lindsay and Madeline from the YMCA.  They did a fabulous job organizing volunteers and sponsors for the program.

 I am personally thankful for Dr. Richard Kline and his vision to design such a bike.  I am also thankful for the folks who spend their summers traveling from city to city.  The days are long and strenuous for all of the Mandas and Sams in the iCanBike program.

This is one of those opportunities where those who have been rescued by Jesus can become literally hands and feet to those around us.  I came home each day pretty tired from my 75 minute workout.  Some of the volunteers stayed for more than one session each day.  I am still wowed by that.

Next year iCanBike will be back in Greenville  or maybe another  iCan camp will be coming to your community.  Jump in and be a volunteer.  Jump in a be a sponsor.  It is one of those ways that we can punch holes in the darkness and make a positive impact on individual people's lives.

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Teapots, Dementia and Home

The last month has been a blur for me.  My mother in law called me one Saturday night.  She left a message wanting to know if it was okay she was alone at her mother's house.  Her mama died in 1981 and her  mama's house has long been gone from being family property.  I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore.  Grandma has been diagnosed with an unspecified dementia. She ended up over taking some medication and did some pretty serious damage to her physical body.  For the last couple of years she has exhibited some unusual behavior but all of us can be a little strange at times.  I knew she was forgetful but I never seriously thought she had dementia.

We are in process of trying to figure out the formula for what is right for her in this last season of her life. It is stressful to try and make decisions for someone else.  She is in rehab and desperately wants to go home, although she can't quite remember what home looks like.  Some days she thinks I am heaven sent and other days she chews my tail off.   Today she has been sweet.

I walk around her property and a profound sadness washes over me.  I remember the first times of going there and being so nervous about meeting my future husband's parents.  She was just a few year older than what I am right now.  She liked to dress stylish.  I can remember her wearing an outfit of red pants and red top with dangling red ear rings.  She was in her hey day as an accomplished adult.  She crocheted beautiful cotton thread Victorian bedspreads, she quilted and she gardened.  She loved to do crafts and to decorate her home.  Her specialties in the kitchen were banana nut bread and party mix that she always made for the holidays.  I learned to make her orange juice balls which are now fully entrenched as one my holiday recipes.

She really never expected her son to marry.  I was a complete surprise to her. I think secretly she was pretty pleased with the idea that her son would stay a bachelor, but she really did try to make me feel welcomed in to the family.   Over the years we have had some good moments together and some not so good moments together.  My husband, my son and I lived with her years ago for a short period of time.  It was pretty disastrous, but I think we both gained a greater understanding of the other one. One thing that which we have always been able to  agree is the incredible worth of her son and her grandson.

I really dislike everything about this process of her declining health.  She has been miserable at home for about two years now, but unwilling to make any changes.  I hate that she is not able to go home and that soon we will begin the process of dismantling her domestic world and reducing it to a room in an assisted living.

In some ways it would just be so much simpler if she were able to live out her days in her own house.  The doctors and the therapists all recommend that she have 24 hour care.  She has lived in the same place for almost 60 years.  I can't even begin to image what that would be like for someone in their eighties to have to go to a new environment.

Grandma's house represents everything  Grandma.  It is filled with Victorian frou frou. Teapots, velvet and lace adorn almost every room. She made significant changes to her home over the years finally getting it the way she wanted.  She has been pretty obsessed with her home and it would be easy to think that somehow Grandma's life is intertwined with that gray house.

It so easy to misjudge what life is about.  We make our lives here on earth as though this is a place of permanence.  When in reality we are all are just a little blurb on the radar and represent a speck on the historical timeline. If in this life we make it to the mountain peak, time turns the rocks into grain of sand that slip beneath our feet.

The pictures on the walls of her house tell the story of  a young woman who became a young mother, then a middle age lady who eventually was called grandma.  That once bright eyed young women's life has whizzed past at break neck speed.

Life is just a vapor that appears for a little while and then is gone.

For those who have come to genuine faith in the redemptive work of Jesus, we know that our physical bodies are compared to a tent and that we are only temporary dwellers on the earth.  We are to consider ourselves foreigners, just  sojourners on the earth.

The lines can get pretty blurry in this life and we can easily focus on the stuff that is going to break or dry rot.  There are treasures to be found and we should be actively seeking the true treasures of this life, relationship with God and the good work of building the Kingdom.  We should be investing in the lives around us not collecting man made junk as though it will satisfy us for eternity.

I don't think it matters how spiritually minded that you may be, I think packing up to go home can be pretty hard. For those who live long on the earth, I think it can be like an extended vacation.  By the end you are spent and your belongings just don't seem to fit in the luggage. You are just anxious to get on the road.  I think in some ways Grandma is anxious to get on the road as well.  I think before she leaves that there are things that she needs some closure about.  When the end comes for a Christian, it shouldn't just  be a sad occasion.  We grieve for those who leave us, but I think there should also be a tad bit of jealousy  and a whole lot of joy.  After all,  they have finally made it to their true home.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What If

What if we believed God
What if we waited on Him to act
What if we acknowledged our complete lack of wisdom and our complete poverty of resources
What if we rested in His promises
What if we truly believed He was good
What if we truly believed He was great.

Oh the wonder of what if........................