iCan Bike Alpharetta: An Interview with Officer Amanda Clay

Growing up, we remember the quintessential childhood experiences like riding a bike and attending summer camp. These experiences helped us forge friendships, build our social skills, and gave us a sense of independence. For those with special needs, these kinds of opportunities can be fewer in number, yet equally critical.

iCan Bike Alpharetta draws from these experiences by bringing the joy and freedom of learning to ride a bike to special needs children and adults through a one-week summer camp. The camp was created in coordination with iCan Shine, a nonprofit organization that collaborates with local programs to teach usable skills and provide learning experiences to special needs children and adults. The iCan Shine program ‘hosts’ conduct over 100 five-day ‘iCan’ camps in 35 states and Canada, serving nearly 3,000 people with disabilities each year.

What is iCan Bike Alpharetta?

As a member of the Alpharetta Department of Public Safety’s Bike Patrol Unit, Officer Amanda Clay is no stranger to making a difference – she leads the iCan Bike Alpharetta program in Georgia. “There are a lot of great organizations that help support the special needs community in Alpharetta,” she explained, “but not a lot of programs offered to teach them how to ride a bike.” Knowing how to ride a bike opens a world of possibilities for these kids and adults, providing them a chance to contribute to society in ways that improve their lives and those of others.

iCan Bike Alpharetta is held for one week in July at the Alpharetta Family Skate Center, which locals affectionately call “The Cooler.” Because of the size and strength required to ride a bicycle, the camp has an age requirement of 8 years old for participants. There is no maximum age. Last year, a 40-year-old learned to ride a bike for the first time. Says Officer Clay, “You’re never too old to learn new skills, feel a sense of freedom, and experience the accomplishment of doing something on your own.”

In addition to learning the skills necessary to ride a bike, the Camp teaches safety, independence, and critical thinking. Throughout the week, Officer Clay also coordinates visits from the local Police and Fire Department, including the K9 Unit, which is always a big hit with the campers. Clay feels children and adults with disabilities should know that they can trust officers and first responders, that they should feel safe around them, and turn to them for help.

The Greatest Obstacle

As with many organizations, money is a challenge. Every year, iCan Bike Alpharetta must pay $8,500 for the right to run the camp, paid directly to iCan Shine. The skating rink rental is approximately $4,000, though they have been fortunate to have that donated every year by The Cooler. However, the camp has to pay for food for campers and hotels stays for the bike technicians.

Camp operations require approximately $15,000, with the majority of funding coming from the Alpharetta Public Safety Foundation. Camp participants also pay a $200 registration fee, but Officer Clay tries to alleviate some of this financial burden whenever possible. She understands how financially difficult it can be for families with special needs children. “Ideally,” she says, “I would love to get a sponsor for every rider, or a sponsor who can purchase bike locks or safety equipment for each participant.”

This year, Officer Clay received $1,000 from Aftermath Services as part of the Why We Serve Grant, awarded to the Alpharetta Public Safety Foundation and K9 Raider. K9 Raider placed 2nd in the yearly grant competition and shared her award with iCan Bike Alpharetta.

Officer Clay’s long-term goal is to have another coordinator who can organize a second week of iCan Bike Alpharetta. Every year, the camp receives 80-100 applicants, but space is limited to 40 students. If they could offer a second week, the camp wouldn’t have to turn away as many kids.

How Can You Help?

Donations are critical to iCan Bike Alpharetta. Individuals can donate directly to the Alpharetta Public Safety Foundation and iCan Shine, and add a memo to mark the funds for “iCan Bike Alpharetta”.

If a financial donation is not possible, the camp is always in need of volunteers. Running the camp takes 100 or more volunteers; each rider needs two spotters for safety, so there can never be too many hands. Current volunteers come from high school sports teams, local service leagues, Rotary Club, and Boy Scouts. To learn more about volunteering, contact Officer Clay at aclay@alpharetta.ga.us or 678-297-6383.

A Word of Thanks

iCan Bike Alpharetta would not be successful without the generous donations of time and funds from the community. Officer Clay sends her thanks to all of the volunteers, officers, and first responders who give their time and energy to ensure that the campers have a great experience; local businesses like Publix Super Market and Chick-fil-A for their assistance; Alpharetta’s Police Chief for his support and sponsorship; to Aftermath for this year’s Why We Serve Grant funds; and most of all, to The Cooler, who generously support the mission by giving it a home.

About the Aftermath Why We Serve Grant

As the nation’s largest dedicated crime scene cleanup company, Aftermath routinely works alongside police and other first responders to provide high quality and compassionate trauma cleaning services to families and businesses. The company established the Why We Serve Grant last year to proudly recognize the spirit of volunteerism embodied by our nation’s law enforcement and to acknowledge them for their ongoing efforts to serve, protect, and improve the communities in which we both serve.