Joey Litko is an 8thgrader at ET Booth Middle School in Woodstock, GA.
Joey’s mother, Amy, heard about the iCan Bike program from Joey’s Occupational Therapist, Sara. While Joey had given up on learning to bike many years ago, Amy really wanted him to give bike camp a try. Joey had wanted to learn to ride a two-wheeler for many years. Amy says, over the years, they purchased multiple bikes and gave them away as Joey outgrew them never learning to ride. Amy feels like Joey had finally convinced himself that he could not learn to ride. As many families do, the Litko’s tried to accept that Joey may never learn to ride a bike.
When Amy told Joey about the local iCan Bike camp he did not want to go. He did not believe that he could accomplish biking at all, much less in one week. With Amy’s encouragement Joey attended the iCan Bike Camp in Alpharetta, GA in July 2017. Much to the surprise and delight of both Amy and Joey, he learned to ride a two-wheeler on the third day of camp!
One of Joey’s volunteers, Hal, was especially inspirational to Joey and to Amy. When Joey wanted to give up because the next step was beyond his comfort zone, Hal pushed Joey with positivity and the belief that Joey could keep going. According to Amy “The Shine roller bikes and the awesomeness of Hal were key in Joey’s success.” Amy says she learned a lot about her parenting at bike camp too. She is working on pushing Joey out of his comfort zone more now.
Amy says “iCan Bike camp changed everything for us. Joey went from being fearful of and anxious about most things. Joey feared food, especially trying new foods, going outside, and interacting with people, new situations, truly almost everything. Joey was bullied when he was in second grade and has been home-schooled since. We were very isolated and alone.”
iCan Bike brought many remarkable and welcome changes for Joey and his family. Joey says “When I learned to ride I felt like I was free, like I was flying, like I could do anything……because I CAN!” Amy tells us that Joey gained so much confidence at bike camp that he started trying different foods and now eats almost anything. Another big event that happened after bike camp came when Joey told his mom “I want to go to real school.” And so he did!
Another big accomplishment occurred for Joey recently. He was bullied at school again, but this time with a different outcome. At lunchtime a boy was waving his arms in the air repeating “I have autism. Look at me, I have autism.” With Joey’s new confidence on board he promptly picked up a baby carrot and threw it at the boy. Joey said “Stop it. I do have autism and lots of people do. We are great people!” And he threw another carrot at the boy, again the boy continued so, to make his point known, Joey threw his whole lunch at the boy.
Of course Amy got a call from the school. She says “We take that as a victory. It was a pivotal moment for him. He stood up for himself against a bully. He’s not afraid of having autism. Bike camp changed the way he feels about that. Joey knows autism makes him different but he now knows that different is good. Actually different is great! He doesn’t want to be like everyone else anymore. Joey is happy and confident being himself now.”
Now 14 years old, Joey is now talking about learning to drive and going to college. Amy says Joey’s dad, Joe, is much more positive and encouraging about the driving part. Mom does believe that Joey will accomplish anything he decides to do. “Due to Joey’s newfound confidence in himself, for the first time in a very long time my husband and I are going on a date night and leaving Joey home alone. He told us ‘Go! Have fun. I can stay alone. I got this mom.'” Joey also joined the marching band at his school playing the trumpet.
Amy says “Bike camp changed Joey from a scared little boy to a confident young man. We are so grateful!” To show their gratitude Amy, Joe, and Joey all went to iCan Bike Alpharetta this year as volunteers. “I think I cried more this year than I did last year when Joey was in camp. Just watching the mom’s and knowing how they felt, knowing how their lives would change too. It was amazing!”
Amy is currently working to open her own business, Red Squirrel Bakery. She plans to employ people of all abilities. Joey is a part owner and the “idea man”. He comes up with all the different flavors. “After bike camp Joey has found that he really enjoys helping people. He will likely be working at the bakery in that capacity as well” says Amy.
We are SO blessed to know Joey and the Litko family. Joey’s accomplishments fill us with great pride and hope. We know that given the chance and a supportive, positive environment with high expectations everyone can be successful. We wish you great success in all of your future endeavors Joey.
~ SHINE ON ~
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