As many of you know, Strider was lucky enough to be invited to host an Adventure Zone as part of the Special Olympics USA Games held in New Jersey in June.
Here it is, more than a month later, and still, all I can say is “WOW”! It was such an honor for us to participate in the first ever Young Athletes Festival. This amazing celebration of Special Olympics youngest, and future athletes was presented by Toys R Us and was at the Special Olympics New Jersey Sports Complex.
The facility was amazing in itself, but the transformation that the Young Athletes Festival team created to make this a one-of-a-kind experience for kids with special needs was truly unbelievable. Sports of all kinds were represented that showed off their skills, giggles were unending in the fun house, jewels were discovered in the specially designed rain forest and there was even snow to play in despite the 90 degree days of summer!! They thought of it all.
And STRIDER was a part of it! What an amazing week. Between 500 and 600 kids with special needs, ages 2 to 7 attended and it ran so smoothly, in no small part, due to the hundreds of volunteers helping throughout the week. It was an emotional week seeing so many kids that have never been on a bike take off on a Strider and master the course. Nowhere else could the sight of an empty walker mean that child was out riding a bike!
The Young Athletes Festival was just one of the many venues holding world class sporting events that week. There were exciting competitions going on at 10 different locations that revealed champions from all over the country and entertained more than 70,000 spectators! A Future Stars race was held twice each day. This race, on a custom built track, gave every participant the chance to run in front of a cheering crowd and earn their first ever Special Olympics Medal.
You can see all of the amazing photos from The Young Athletes Festival HERE
Thank you to the USA Games, to Special Olympics New Jersey and to Toys R Us for a spectacular week! A very special thanks goes to Ellen Anderson for her vision of the Young Athletes program and festival, combined with the countless hours of work to make it a reality! One more, big shout out goes to Andrea Moore! She enthusiastically embraced Strider and making it possible for us to work towards a strong future of creating more riders through Young Athletes and Special Olympics.
Need something to smile about? Just look at our facebook page!
At Strider we get to hear a ton of fun stories from parents of toddlers learning to ride bikes and their amazing adventures. The pictures we receive could literally have us overdosing on cuteness on any given day. It is truly one of the most rewarding parts of our job!
I have to admit, though, I have a soft spot in my heart for the letters, emails and pictures we get from therapists who are using our bikes as a tool to improve the health and lives of kids with disabilities. The therapists are thankful for a bike that they can use to help the kids in their work and we are thankful for the amazing things they do to help kids every day!
From increasing balance, assisting with work on range of motion, to building strength, and aiding in bilateral motor coordination therapists are using STRIDER Bikes as tools. The kids are having fun and often don’t even realize they aren’t just playing!
Here are just a couple pictures and a couple stories to warm your heart today:
”Using the Strider Super 16 is the perfect tool to integrate balance, coordination, and strength along with giving kids with various challenges the confidence and independence that they would never experience with a standard bike. It’s priceless to see the smiles on their faces when they finally grasp the concept. Thanks Strider!!!” Kim Burke, MPT
“I have a few of one little camper on your bikes so I’ve attached them here. His Mom told me that the therapists had him using them a great deal though the week because he enjoyed them so much and they helped him work his quads which he needed to accomplish one of his goals for the week of going up and down stairs using alternate feet. He achieved that goal and others during his week at camp. And his parents said they’re going to be buying a Strider Bike for him now because of this experience.” Sarah Hartway, Adam’s Camp
Riding a bike is fun!
Strider Balance bikes are fun!
Riding a bike is a healthy habit that can increase physical activity in kids, and help combat rising childhood obesity rates!
I am sure you can easily believe and understand these statements. However, here is an entirely new reason to get your toddler on a balance bike perfecting those skills:
The development of balance in toddlers leads to better cognitive learning!
Strider Balance bikes are scientifically proven to increase balance in toddlers. But balance is not just a physical skill.
Marjorie Woollacott, Ph.D., a professor of human physiology states, “Balance is a pillar beneath every skill we have.” Balance plays a larger role in the overall development of our children than we realize. Reading difficulties can occur and learning development will be delayed when balance and other systems are out of sync.
I will try to take all the scientific verbage and boil it down to my type of language. There are three parts to physical balance; eyes, body, and ears. Babies are born with the inner ear balance. As they become toddlers they engage the visual and begin to develop the bodily strength to increase their sense of balance. All of these systems must work together to form balance. For a baby and toddler that is in prime developmental stages it takes a lot of brain power to bring all three together. That same brain power and the same systems are required for all of the learning they will do. The more balance is practiced and perfected it becomes second nature. Less of that brain power is needed to focus on physical balance, and more of the brain can be devoted to learning.
So, now is the time! It is our parental duty to get kids out on those bikes having fun, and we can all rest assured we are helping our toddlers prepare for better grades in school!
Who isn’t aware of the big football game in February? Let’s see, I think it is called the Superbowl and it is being held in New Jersey. Yes, it is a big deal. AND, for all of you sport fanatics out there, we could also mention the Winter Olympics are in Sochi in February 2014. Yes, this also is a pretty big deal. While these huge events will provide us all with some hours of great television viewing - will they inspire you?
In June, months after these two events have passed, an event like no other will also be held in New Jersey! An inspiring and impactful sporting event!!
The Special Olympics USA Games are coming, and I would like to invite you to join us at Strider as we follow these true champions this year. With more than 70,000 spectators, the Special Olympics USA Games will have as many people in attendance as were at Super Bowl XLII. And with 3500 athletes competing in this National Event, it is holding its own compared to 5000 athletes from all over the globe in Sochi for the Winter Olympics. It is also… a BIG deal!! With 4,000,000 Special Olympics participants worldwide there will be events going on daily.
It is not only the size of the games that is the story, but rather, that these athletes will amaze and inspire you.
Here at Strider we are committed to learning about, and finding inspiration from this tremendous group of athletes. We are excited to be participating by hosting a STRIDER Adventure Zone at the Young Athletes Festival that is a part of the Games in New Jersey. Join us in our journey and learn more about Special Olympics this year by liking our STRIDER Bikes Special Needs Facebook page for updates and great stories leading up to the games this summer.
If you are already a fan, a participant, or a Special Olympics supporter, we would love to hear your stories and see your pictures. Help us spread the word!
Day in and day out there are children in hospitals fighting to overcome serious illness and injury. What a frightening time for the kids and the parents alike. Many times these kids miss holidays at home, friends at school and family events. One of the most important things that can happen for them while they are in the hospital is to have time to still be kids! Play is an important part of comforting, soothing and taking a child’s mind off of their battle even if for just a few moments.
Tyler Klassen of Indianapolis saw a picture of a young girl (Presley - pictured above) who, while fighting cancer, spends time riding her STRIDER in the halls of a hospital, and knew right away that he wanted to make a difference! Tyler said, “As a parent, the thought of having a child in the hospital for a long period of time is terrifying. Seeing Striders inside of a children’s hospital really made me smile though. I want the kids to just be kids. I want them to buzz around the halls on bikes, let them have fun and maybe forget for a bit that they are in a hospital.”
An avid motorcycle rider, Tyler decided to take action and help more kids be able to stride their way through the hospital. The added benefit of STRIDER riding while in hospital is the physical therapy aspect. Tyler is organizing a fundraising ride called “Riders for Striders” to get his fellow motorcycle enthusiasts together for a day dedicated to helping purchase STRIDERS for Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital!
Every child deserves time to be a child! Thank you for your efforts and compassion Tyler!