Northeast Joco

Bike club gives kids a chance to expand horizons

Updated: 2013-09-17T23:17:48Z

By JERRY LaMARTINA

Special to The Star

“Don’t let go, Dad! Don’t let go!”

Remember the thrill and terror of your first solo bike ride? Well, a program is helping children with learning disabilities experience that thrill, too.

Kit Bardwell, arts and extracurricular coordinator for Horizon Academy in Mission, started the program about two weeks ago with help from Family Bicycles in Waldo and RevolveKC, a Kansas City cycling-enthusiast group. RevolveKC donates bikes through Family Bicycles to the program.

“I’m a very enthusiastic cyclist,” Bardwell said. “It’s freedom and transportation.”

The program’s nine kids ride at Horizon Academy once a week.

Sixth-grader Ian Nitschke said he likes riding but it’s not as easy as he would’ve thought.

“It’s OK,” he said. “So-so. It’s hard on this thing.”

Kansas City has shown generosity by passing on the bikes to RevolveKC, said Theresa Van Ackeren, owner of Family Bicycles.

“We use all our resources to get them to the people who want them,” she said.

Conviction prompts her to crusade for bikes.

“I believe that everybody should learn to ride a bike,” she said. “A bike to kids means freedom. It lets you expand your horizons. It’s an exhilarating experience. Way too many kids in today’s world have no idea how to ride a bike.

“Enjoy the freedom of going out and riding a bike to the 7-Eleven to get a Slurpee, which is what I used to do.”

Fourth-grader Griffin Prior hopes for a Slurpee bike ride, but she said she’s still learning the cycling ropes.

“I don’t know it all,” she said. She scrapes her knees sometimes, “especially when I’m walking my dog.”

Eighth-grader Jon Jackson said he “doesn’t usually use training wheels,” so he’s getting the hang of cycling.

Van Ackeren said she got hooked on “seeing the expressions on kids’ faces when they finally get it.”

“It’s a sense of accomplishment and adventure,” she said. “I remember what that was like when I was a kid. It really is more about doing it for the pleasure of doing it.”

Physical activity helps calm down kids for other things, Van Ackeren said.

“A sense of accomplishment in one area, especially athletics, leads to better grades,” she said.

That proficiency probably helps students with their studies, too, Bardwell said.

“I would think any kind of gross-motor development would help all their learning.”

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