WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Little League World Series Regionals are being held this week in Bristol but another sports initiative is making a big difference for kids with disabilities.
The effort is palpable just like the feelings of support. This is “I Can Bike” – a national program hosted by the Miracle League of Connecticut.
“It teaches special needs individuals – ages 8 and up – how to independently ride a two wheeled bike in just one weeks time,” said Mike Michaud, Miracle League of Connecticut, Executive Director & Co-founder.
The camp features a specialized contraption…
“It’s a regular bike but the back wheel has been removed and replaced with a roller system,” said Michaud.
And sixty volunteers like Sarah Mclaughlin, who just graduated from college.
“Our two jobs are basically safety and motivation,” said Mclaughlin.
“Her dad heard about this program and we went online and started watching the YouTube videos and it was like wow could she do this?” said Susan Bergamo.
17-year-old Gabi is non-verbal yet very active.
“She skis, she horse back rides she loves basketball,” said Bergamo.
Her mom Susan Bergamo says learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage.
“I feel like it’s opening a door for her to increase speech, increase independence that’s what we’re working towards,” said Bergamo.
It’s just one opportunity offered by this local group…making a big difference.
The Miracle League is best known for this field in West Hartford. In 2012, it debuted as the first of it’s kind in New England. The fully accessible baseball field features a rubberized surface with built in bases.
“It was to make baseball available to all kids even those with mobility issues,” said Michaud. “We started in 2012 with with 30 players. This past spring we had 125 from all over the state, 8 teams, so it’s grown and grown.”
Participants, in all league activities, find community and confidence.
The bikers move outside as they transition to a standard two-wheeler.
“It’s the best feeling. This morning my rider got up on two wheels on his own bike and we were screaming for him, cheering for him so much,” said Mclaughlin.
A journey filled with accomplishment and pride.
“Smiles on them but even mores the parents. That’s what gets me going every year when I see the parents start to cry. After doing this for 6, 7 years, I still shed a few tears every year,” said Michaud.