Local bike camp for people with disabilities puts out call for help, community answers

The Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio put out a call for volunteers, and the community answered.
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GROVE CITY, Ohio — It is a week-long camp designed to help people with disabilities learn how to ride a bike. But, 12 years in, the program hit a bump in the road this week when there were not enough volunteers.

"We ran into a bit of a crisis," said Kari Jones, president and CEO of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio.

The iCan Bike Camp allows anyone with a developmental or physical disability, age 8 and older, to learn how to ride a bike. The goal is to have each rider on his or her own bike by the end of the week. In order to make that happen, several volunteers are matched up with each rider to guide and encourage.

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"To only have one person (per rider) is a little bit of a risk for us," Jones said. "You can do it, but it's not ideal, and certainly isn't going to lead to the results that we want to see."

When not enough volunteers showed up for camp on Monday, DSACO put out a call for help on social media and via email.

Ryan Hughes got the message the new, old-fashioned way.

"Normal married life communication — I received a screenshot message from my wife while we were sitting on the couch next to each other," Hughes said.

The next day, Hughes showed up at camp, along with about 20 other volunteers.

"Thank goodness. Through social media, we had our community rise to the challenge and we're so grateful for that," Jones said.

On Wednesday, there were plenty of volunteers for each of the riders, including Grace and Josie.

Their mom, Erin Foerch, is driving them both to the camp in Grove City from Cedarville each day.

"I see them riding a bike and I'm just so excited because they're getting to do something that their peers are doing, and then it's helping them in all the ways they need to grow in any way, too," Foerch said.

The camp wraps up on Friday and Jones says thanks to the community response, there should be plenty of volunteers.

"To see people really not just 'like' or share a post but actually physically come to this location to run alongside individuals is just remarkable," Jones said. "It's not surprising but it's definitely remarkable and it speaks to the awesome community that we live in."

Hughes agreed, saying he was happy to answer the call. And he arrived with a few skills all ready to go. He is currently teaching his young children how to ride a bike.

"This community is filled with people who are willing to help, who are doing it in an organized and very purposeful way, and that's something I'm super happy to be part of," he said.

Next up for DSACO is a swim camp later this summer.