When I was a kid, a bicycle meant freedom to go beyond my own neighborhood and explore. Sometimes that just meant riding to 7-Eleven to buy a Hershey’s bar. Trips for Kids Charlotte knows bikes can mean much more, especially to kids from fragile neighborhoods.
The way this non-profit does this is genius.
Trips for Kids Charlotte takes kids ages 10-15 on 10-mile mountain bike rides every Saturday morning. Some schools use the ride as an incentive for good behavior, attendance and grades. It’s free and bikes are provided. Last year 703 kids participated.
Kids can even earn their own bikes. They attend a hands-on course during which they learn bike safety and basic bike maintenance. All kids must be able to change a flat tire without adult help. At the end of this program they get their own bike. No strings attached. Last year 93 kids earned bikes.
What it does for kids
It’s all good. Really good. Teachers report improved grades and behavior, because the kids want to ride again. Sometimes teachers even ride with the kids on Saturdays and say they notice an improvement in the teacher-student relationship. When kids overcome obstacles their self-esteem and confidence skyrocket.
How they do it
Lots of people help. And they could use more helpers. They’re always in need of more adult volunteers to go on the Saturday rides, because they like to have a one-to-one ratio, and help fixing bikes (you can take their mechanics class to learn how).
Another important part of the operation is the Re-Cyclery. The Re-Cyclery accepts bike donations (dusty, not rusty!) and fixes them up. Then the bikes are used either for the Rides program, the Earn-a-Bike program or to sell to the public to raise money. (They especially need adult bikes to sell.)
Where to find the Re-Cyclery
The Re-Cyclery is at 512 East 15th St., in what’s known as “Area Fifteen.” Make sure to check the website for hours. Once you’re down there you can’t miss it because of the huge, amazing mural on the outside of the building, designed by local artist William Puckett. He actually created a paint-by-numbers design and 300 volunteers from the community, as many kids as adults, painted it.
Check out this video about the program, especially around minute 2:20 when a young participant shares an important value with the reporter. And then leaves him in the dust.