By Art Holliday
St. Louis (KSDK) - For most kids doing this, hopping on a bike is a rite of passage and sign of summer, but children with disabilities sometimes get left out.
NewsChannel 5's Art Holliday found a bike camp that's inclusive. It's a program called "Lose the Training Wheels." It's becoming a huge success all over the United States and Canada.
At the bike camp the children are special, and so are the bikes.
The bike camp at South Technical High School has 32 children, most with Down syndrome, some with autism, and other disabilities.
Thanks to the camp, they're allowed to experience the joy of bike riding, a priceless feeling for a parent.
"It's something you don't know if they're going to pickup or they're going to be able to do," said David Hughes.
Hughes watched proudly as his two sons, 8-year-old Jacob and 11-year-old Jacob, learned to ride.
You know the saying it's not rocket science? In the case of the specially designed bikes used in this program, riding a bike is rocket science because a retired college professor used rocket science technology to design the bikes.
"I physically hand craft and build each one of these bikes," said Richard Klein.
Before retiring, 73-year-old Klein was a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Illinois. What started as an assignment for his students turned into years of research about adapted bikes.
Specially designed rollers take the place of training wheels, and there's a handle on the back of the bike in case a volunteer has to assist a biker.
Klein has built hundreds of bikes and visits many of the 85 bike camps all over the US and Canada.
"We start off with a very simple bike and then as the child progresses more we give the child more challenge, and ah-ha! They're riding a bike," said Klein. "And it fills me up and gives me a reason to get up each morning."
The Lydia Cox Family Foundation supports the local bike camp.
Lydia, a child with Down syndrome, died three years ago.
Her mother says having her daughter's name attached to this week-long bike camp is an emotional gift for her family.
"And by Friday, God willing, and with the help of Lydia and everybody, because we have five sessions, this is just the first session, everybody will be riding two wheels," said Suzie Risher.
Local sponsors for Lose the Training Wheels Bike Camp include the Pujols Family Foundation, the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis, and the Lydia Cox Family Foundation.
Riding a bike is something many of us take for granted, but it's a special event for the kids at this camp because it increases their self confidence and self esteem.