With the Hoboken Family Alliance’s second annual “Lose the Training Wheels” event kicking off July 8, it’s unclear who is more excited: the kids, or event organizer Theresa Howard.
The Kansas-based organization, which has claimed an 80 percent success rate, helps children with special needs learn to ride a two-wheel bicycle. Howard said last year’s event – the first to be held in New Jersey – earned the attention of politicians, residents, visitors, and even celebrities (hint: Artie Lange).
Bike camp will be held July 8 to July 13 in the Hoboken High School gymnasium.
“We’ve got some really great support this year,” said Howard, a special services director for children with special needs at the Hoboken Family Alliance, a local volunteer-driven organization. Howard said that this year’s event already has roughly 25 of the 30 maximum children registered, which is more than double the number of last year’s participants.
Howard said that this year’s sponsors include Ben & Jerry’s, Litzky Public Relations, Coca-Cola, HMag, Hoboken Harriers, Orlando Physical Therapy, Macy’s, and Clearview Cinema.
“It really means a lot when the community steps up and helps out with something like this,” said Howard, “because there is only so much a single organization can do.”
The program, which will feature two instructors, will be held in Hoboken once again from July 8 to July 13 in the Hoboken High School gymnasium. Children 8 years of age and older can participate. For more information, visit the organization website at www.hobokenfamily.com.
Building upon a (relatively) solid first year
Howard said that she initially decided to bring the event to Hoboken after hearing about the program while attending a seminar at Princeton University. After a two year process, the program was up and running.
“I had heard about this great program that teaches kids how to learn a two-wheeler for five days,” said Howard. “It was a two year process because it’s actually a lot of work. There’s a lot of moving parts.”
Howard admitted that although last year’s program was successful, it was not without its kinks.
“They usually do [the program] in suburban areas where they have oodles of square footage and lots of parking,” said Howard. “When they got into town it dawned on me that they had a trailer with a fleet of bikes and nowhere to park.”
Howard also said they did not have affordable space to house the two instructors for the program for the week.
“There were a lot of things that we hadn’t thought through,” said Howard, later adding that the HFA has worked with the city for parking and has also booked a hotel in Secaucus to be better prepared to house the instructors.
“We learned a lot from last year [that helped us to prepare] better for this year,” added Howard.
Other HFA programs
Howard said she first joined the HFA after her daughter was born with Down’s syndrome.
“It made me realize there’s got to be other families in town that have children with special needs,” said Howard.
According to Howard, the HFA has offered several other events and programs for children with special needs, including a training program for the Special Olympics, a soccer program with members of the New York Red Bulls, and the creation of a school board special needs subcommittee.
“We’ve been trying for the past couple of years to bring more attention and awareness for children with special needs in the community,” said Howard.
“All of these things working together are really helping to create awareness and opportunities,” continued Howard, adding that she is working with the city to establish more recreational programs tailored toward children with special needs.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.