Giving kids a first on two wheels

Bike First! offers summer volunteer experience


Photo courtesy of Ann Donaca-Sullivan

Ethan Shields helps a camper ride a bike. He has volunteered at Bike First! for nine years.

By Liz Blodgett, News Editor

Bike riding is one of the many childhood stepping stones that most people have taken. However, many adults, teens, and children with disabilities don’t know how to ride a bike, or even have the skills to. Bike First is a way that these individual can learn the skills to ride a bike.

    Ann Donaca-Sullivan started this program 14 years ago when her son, Cody Sullivan, wanted to ride his bike with his friends. Realizing that typical bike riding methods wouldn’t teach Cody to ride a bike, Ann found adapted bikes which help teach the skills needed to ride a typical bike. Since then, Bike First has grown to where it is today. Each year, the program allows many children with various disabilities with the ability to ride a two wheel bike by the end of the week.

    “Bike First! Opens eyes to the importance of providing healthy robust lives for everyone,” Sullivan said.

    Each of the volunteers gets to experience Bike First! in different ways. Some volunteers are running right behind the biker, making sure that the biker is stable and biking at a safe pace. Others  are running in front of the biker to keep them engaged and show them where to ride. Others are on the sidelines cheering on the bikers as they ride by.

    Clackamas Community College student Noah Kurzenhauser has been volunteering at Bike First! for four years now.

    “At the end of the day, it boils down to ‘inclusion’”, Kurzenhauser said. “So often the kids want to learn so they can bike with their friends during summer break without training wheels or join their family on bike rides. It’s the concept of normalcy, really,”

    Bike First! strives to create a positive environment for everyone involved–from the volunteers to those learning how to ride a bike.

    Rees Rosene is a sophomore at Oregon State University and has been volunteering at Bike First! for the past eight years.

    “I love the community that is built around it. You see campers coming back year after year because of the fun times they get to have at bike camp,” Rosene said. “It creates such an amazing symbiotic relationship for the kids learning new skills and gaining confidence, but also for the volunteers practicing patience and empathy.”

    Bike First! strives to show everyone involved that having a disability does not make you less of a person. Oregon State University Junior Ethan Shields has been volunteering at Bike First! for nine years now. Shields explained that this program is a way that these misconceptions can be stopped and showcase the truth about these incredible individuals.

    “I feel like there are a lot of misconceptions about disabilities especially among my peers, so volunteering at Bike First! would teach them a lot about people with special needs and the actual nature of their conditions,” Shields said.

    “The people who volunteer at Bike First! are family. It will be the best week of your year and encourage you to grow to be an even more inclusive, passionate person,” Sullivan said.

    Bike First! is always looking for new volunteers to help out. Tigard students interested in volunteering or wanting to learn more about the program, can go to