MARQUETTE – The United States Olympic Education Center’s weightlifting team is participating in the second annual ‘Lose the Training Wheels’ bike camp taking place through Friday (July 31) at the Lakeview Arena. The weeklong program, sponsored by the Marquette-Alger Special Education Parent Advisory Committee, helps disabled children transition from training wheels to two-wheel bicycles.
This is the USOEC weightlifting team’s second year volunteering at this camp. Program coordinator Carol Haapala appreciates the athletes’ willingness to help. “They’re phenomenal,” she said. “We don’t know what we would have done without them.”
Northern Michigan University sophomore Jessica Gallagher of Altamonte, Fla. said, “It’s good to work with kids, especially in sports.”
NMU sophomore Sara Cowles Daytona Beach, Fla. is a newcomer to the USOEC and the Marquette area. “It’s a great chance for me to get acquainted with the community,” she said.
The camp was designed by Richard Klein, a professor at the University of Illinois for children who have autism, mental Retardation and developmental disabilities, down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Fifty camps travel around the U.S. and Canada, using Klein’s special equipment and techniques to help these children ride a bike independently for the first time in their lives.
“It feels good when they ride their bike for the first time, and they’re so excited,” said Gallagher.
Not only are the children learning to ride bikes, but the athletes are learning from the experience as well. Cowles said, “I’ve realized you need a lot of energy and patience, but these kids are great.
“This program is awesome,” said Cowles. “And cool to be a part of.”