Marshall University Program Teaching Children with Special Needs Reaches out to the Community for Additional Funding

April 17, 2015

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For the fifth consecutive year, Marshall University will host the Lose the Training Wheels program, which teaches children and adults with special needs how to independently ride two-wheel bicycles.

The camp is offered through a partnership between the nonprofit charity iCanShine and Marshall University.

However, without more help from the community, this life-changing program may cease to exist in our region, according to the program’s director and university associate professor of kinesiology, Dr. Gregg Twietmeyer.

“We have an opportunity here as members of the Huntington community to make a difference in the lives of our youth,” Twietmeyer said. “This program has improved the health and well-being of the Tri-State special needs community for the past four years and we hope to continue the tradition of teaching these riders the joys of riding a bike for many years to come. But the truth is, we need more help.”

Due primarily to state and university budget cuts, Twietmeyer said he has been tasked with making the camp completely self-supporting. This is because university subsidies to support the program’s budget are no longer possible. As a practical matter, this means finding over $10,000 each year to ensure the continued existence of the Lose the Training Wheels summer program.

“We are currently seeking sponsorships at all levels,” Twietmeyer said. “We’ve always been primarily donor driven and the community support the last four years has been wonderful, but the truth is with the loss of a university financial support safety net, the camp’s continued existence is threatened. We are reaching out to the community to hopefully build our donor base and secure the camp’s future. Without a broader and deeper base of donors and sponsors, this will likely be the last year of the program.”

Ron Swearingen of Ona, West Virginia, has enrolled his son, Trey, for the past two years. Swearingen said without the Lose the Training Wheels camp, Trey would not have the skills necessary to ride a bicycle, which he enjoys very much.

“Trey has a pervasive developmental disorder and with that comes some attention deficit issues that makes it difficult for him to concentrate on riding,” Swearingen said. “The Lose the Training Wheels program does exactly what it promises. Before attending the camp, he couldn’t even stay balanced on the bike…it’s an amazing thing to see him grow and learn.”

Interested individuals or businesses can donate time as a camp volunteer, money, or other resources such as bottled water, ice, lunches for staff, etc. All forms of help are greatly appreciated. Businesses or individuals who donate $500 or more will be included on the camp’s T-shirt and camp website, according to Twietmeyer.

The 2015 Lose the Training Wheels camp will take place July 20-24 at Huntington High School. However, moving forward, the decision to host a camp in 2016 and beyond will depend upon how much money is raised to support the 2015 camp, and whether such fundraising indicates that the camp can continue long term without Marshall University’s financial support.

Twietmeyer said those interested in contributing to the program can contact him via e-mail at twietmeyer@marshall.edu, by calling 304-696-2938 or visiting www.marshall.edu/lttw online. Details on volunteering can be found at  http://www.marshall.edu/lttw/Volunteer-Registration-Form15.pdf. Individual donations via credit card can be made at: http://www.marshall.edu/lttw/donate.asp.

 

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