The Guide Project, a local nonprofit that helps find inclusive activities for people living with disabilities, brings iCan Bike Gwinnett to Suwanee.
By: Alicia Carter | Photos Courtesy The Guide Project
Becoming a parent is filled with many joys, some fears, and a whole lot of love. Becoming a parent of a child with special needs, however, comes with its own unique set of joys and fears, but there’s also equal amounts of unwavering and unconditional love. Stacey and Dan Cheney are a testament to that. As parents to two sons, one with disabilities and one without, they know all too well the challenges — and joys and fears and love — that come with parenting children with diverse needs. One of those challenges arose whenever they looked for enrichment opportunities for both of their sons, such as camps, sports, and other similar activities. “In our parenting journey, we realized that the opportunities that were available to each of them were quite different,” Stacey says. “Programs that would be a good fit for my son with disabilities were much harder to find.”
In light of this, Stacey and Dan set out to fill a void in the community with The Guide Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding and creating opportunities for inclusion for people with disabilities and their families. “We want to give them choices, opportunities, and some of the life-enriching experiences that others may take for granted,” Stacey says.
A MISSION OF INCLUSION
While The Guide Project works to find and foster inclusive opportunities for people with special needs, it also looks for activities to pair people with disabilities with those without. They believe that while it’s important to find enriching experiences that connect those with similar abilities, it’s equally important to highlight activities that connect people of all abilities. “We really believe that everyone benefits from inclusion,” Stacey says. “Our neurotypical son learns just as much from his brother as he teaches him, and we see that every day. Their relationship is truly and genuinely mutually beneficial, and we want that to be the way of the world.” Stacey notes that Gwinnett County offers many great programs for people with disabilities, and her family has utilized many of them. The Guide Project’s overall mission is to highlight these programs so that others are able to participate in them as well.
One such program is iCan Bike, which uses innovative, researchbased methodology and specially trained instructors to teach people with disabilities to ride a bike independently. When Stacey first heard about iCan Bike, she knew she wanted to bring it to Gwinnett. “It touched on one of the things at the core of what we were trying to accomplish — ensuring people with disabilities don’t miss out on those life-enriching experiences,” she says. “Even if you’re not an avid cyclist, it’s likely that bicycling plays some role in your memories: riding bikes with neighborhood kids, going on family bike rides, or renting Zagster bikes in Suwanee.”
The five-day camp takes place at Suwanee’s George Pierce Park from July 15-19, and while there have been other iCan Bike events in Georgia, this will be the first to take place in Gwinnett. Using adaptable bikes, campers spend 75 minutes a day working with specially trained instructors to learn to ride a conventional bicycle. iCan Bike represents everything that The Guide Project looks for in an inclusive event for the community. “I spoke to a mom of a child who completed the program several years ago, and she said she had only one word to describe it: magical,” Stacey says. “That just confirmed what we already knew: iCan Bike had to come to our community.”
With iCan Bike, The Guide Project is fulfilling its mission to find and create opportunities for people of all abilities to join together. And while the ultimate goal is to highlight these opportunities for people living with disabilities, Stacey notes how important it is for their families as well. “Raising a child with disabilities can be very isolating, especially if their only options are programs that keep them separate from people without disabilities,” she says. “We think inclusion will help everyone.”
To learn more about The Guide Project and iCan Bike Gwinnett, along with volunteer and sponsorship information, visit GuideEachOther.org.