The True Measure of Success

The Down Syndrome Partnership of Tarrant County’s first annual Lose the Training Wheels bike camp was in July 2010.  Grants from the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation helped make it, as well as the 2011 camp, possible.

“All the participants were incredibly brave and willing, and every single one of them made enormous strides,” said Ann Nauwelaers, whose son Andreas participated.  “The look on his face…when he was riding a two-wheeler for the very first time of his life was just priceless.”

The weeklong camp held at UTA starts inside with air-conditioning on adapted bikes.  Campers, with the help of spotters, progress to conventional two-wheelers outside in the summer heat.  At least two volunteer spotters are needed for each camper.  In 2011, more than 100 volunteers signed up.

According to Jennifer Mearns, Down Syndrome Partnership of Tarrant County Administrative Assistant and bike camp director, it’s not just the campers who benefit from the camp.  One of the television cameramen covering the story told her, “Sometimes, I know why God sends me to these things.”

While some campers master two-wheelers, that’s not the only accomplishment.  One of the issues many with Down syndrome have is balance.  Learning to put down a foot to prevent a fall is significant.  Conquering the fear of falling is life-changing.

“Andreas…needs this independence and self reliance,” said Nauwelaers.  “It has made him much more aware of his surroundings, which has carried over to when he is walking as well.  … He wants to start entering bike races, like his father.  … He still has the biggest smile on his face when he is out riding.”

Campers leave with more than new riding skills.  Confidence and dreams.  Riding the bike instead of taking the Red Cross van to work.  Coming closer to riding a motorcycle.  Planning to enter the Special Olympics biking program.

Success is measured by ear-to-ear grins on the faces of volunteers, staff, parents and campers.

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