The Ultimate Equalizer
Photos and article by IBCF Board Member, Toula Oberlies
"I can't wait to do this again next week!"
That was the exuberant proclamation from a young boy after his first session on the bikes provided by Nine13sports to students in gym class at Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. As stated on their website, this non-profit organization “promotes health, wellness, and exercise for local youth between the ages of 5 and 18” through their Kids Riding Bikes® program. This fun program has proven to be a huge success at many area schools, including at ISBVI.
Tom Hanley, CEO and Executive Director of Nine13sports, says “the bicycle is the ultimate equalizer, with kids of all ages and capabilities doing exactly the same thing.” The bikes are set up on a stationary system and connected to a computer program and screen simulating various situations. The riding is harder going uphill, and then easier going downhill and as the course ultimately levels off.
Pictured at Right: Tom Hanley and Ashley Acuff from Nine13sports
Tom first visited and toured ISBVI in October, and states he quickly “fell in love with the physical beauty of the campus, the staff, and the energy and excitement of the students.” Soon thereafter along with the sponsorship of Regions Bank represented by Ms. Kim Borges, VP and Area Marketing Manager, the 4-week bike program was set for January and February 2017. The kids fell in love with the entire experience, and comments such as “this is so fun,” “when do we get to do this again,” and “I can’t wait till next week!” could be heard in the gym and the entire campus.
The mission of Nine13sports is one that will impact these students well beyond the bike. Tom Hanley said it best… “This is just a great way to enable students to realize they can do anything they put their minds to, and they can achieve and find success with hard work.”
On the final day, Larra Overton of WXIN News and a camera crew from Fox-59, came out to ISBVI to cover the bike-riding sessions and to interview Tom Hanley and one of the students. “It’s fun because I’m independent. It helps me stay strong and makes me get some energy, more energy,” an elementary student exclaimed! Smiles abounded all around.
The Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation is proud to acknowledge our partnership with Tom Hanley and his colleagues at Nine13sports, and Regions Bank. We are grateful for their interest in ISBVI and support of its students in first through twelfth grade. The program will continue in the fall semester, when they will return to work with students of various grade levels.