With the help of three wheels and spurred on by smiles, the lives of kids with disabilities are being changed by a local innovative program that is making them stronger, healthier and happier.
Frame Running Wollongong has been growing and evolving for the past two years, with the non-profit organisation providing active opportunities for children with limited mobility using specialised frames.
The activities are specifically researched and designed to improve movement, and committee member and dad Greg Binskin said the kids enjoyed it so much, they didn’t even realise the physical benefits.
“It’s physio in a fun way,” he said.
“It’s about building their strength up with activities and visual things like games. They also learn motor skills on how to steer and all of that, how to use their feet, because most of these kids can’t weight bear.”
They are now measuring the distance the kids travel each session and are introducing heart monitors to better understand the cardio benefits.
But at the end of the day, it’s the excitement that makes the program so successful.
“The key to it all is the smile on the kids’ faces. If you look at them, they’re happy, they’re having fun.”
Belinda Munroe’s son Ayrton started Frame Running just before he turned three.
“He loves being active, he’s very social and seeing the other kids and chatting to the other kids and he’s built a really nice relationship with his volunteer,” she said.
Belinda believes the program has supported his day-to-day progress.
“His walking and everything has really improved so having that physical development,” Belinda said. “He wasn’t able to stand independently and now he’s taking a couple of steps by himself.”
The program runs free of cost to families, with around 50 volunteers aged from 14 to 70 supporting the cause and dedicating their time to helping and creating bonds with the kids.
“The great thing is that everything is volunteer run and everyone who’s here wants to be here and it’s really lovely the relationship he’s developed with the volunteers because that’s something that takes time to develop and you wouldn’t get that from activities that aren’t around as frequently,” Belinda said.
“We have a lot of younger volunteers which is really exciting for the future because it’s not relying on the traditional older volunteers,” Greg said. “We’ve got young kids who are in high school and giving up their time to give back.”
And with the volunteers taking charge and activities with siblings to get involved, parents have the chance to have a break.
“It’s really great for the kids and it’s really great for the parents so I’ve been able to develop some really nice friendships since coming along and we’re able to share experiences and equipment,” Belinda said.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many similar services in the region.
“I don’t think there is anything like this that meets regularly in the Illawarra,” Belinda said. “There are a few different ones once a term, or once every six months, but there’s not really many opportunities where we can meet regularly and most other kids do a weekly sport activity.”
“There are lots of kids with disability in other areas. Our reach is the Illawarra but we have one boy who comes up occasionally from Ulladulla so it’s a two-hour drive,” Greg said. “We’ve had interest from all over Australia for what we’re doing.”
Sponsorship has allowed each kid to have their own bike so they can utilise the whole 55 minutes each week.
A donation of a trailer from Traffic Logistics will mean they can move the frames and hold sessions outside as the weather warms up.
“What we’ll do is, in summer we’ll have one of these sessions at Beaton Park, so we’ll be able to get the kids out there and enjoy the sunshine and a bit of vitamin D,” Greg said.
“And also give them the opportunity for a new environment, we’ll take some of the exercises with us, but we’ll create new ones as well.”
And there could be many more new opportunities for Frame Running Wollongong in the future, with the organisation constantly evolving and adapting to create the best experiences and outcomes for the kids.
“The future looks bright,” Greg said. “It’s about that long journey, you see short wins but it’s about the long run.”
To find out more visit the Frame Running Wollongong website.