Trips for Kids Charlotte will resume Saturday bike rides Feb. 2 with low-income kids and their adult volunteer “buddies” at Col. Francis Beatty Park near Piper Glen.
The group also hopes to include additional regular rides in 2013 at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, says one official.
“We ride every Saturday except the middle of December through January,” said Paula Fricke, executive director of Trips for Kids and the volunteer in charge of the nonprofit’s ride program.
“We ride from 9 a.m. to noon, and we provide a healthy lunch to the children participating. We did 50 rides in 2012 with about 460 kids in Charlotte.”
Trips for Kids Charlotte (TFK) was founded in 1999 and modeled after a similar program in California, becoming the second TFK group in the nation.
Fricke, who runs the organization from her home office in Providence Arbors in south Charlotte, says the fledging group was founded by three Charlotte residents, including herself, “with a fundamental belief that cycling is an empowering sport that can help kids achieve ‘breakthrough’ results in their lives.”
In 1999, the group served 10 children from “fragile” or low-income neighborhoods in Charlotte, Fricke said. Now with three different programs within TFK, more than 526 children ages 10 to 15 participated in 2012 with a volunteer list of about 800 contacts.
Adult ride volunteer Lance Wormick is one of nearly 60 core volunteers in the ride program.
“I, too, feel like a kid among the kids who come out with us,” he said. “It’s these kids who have the desire to get out of their comfort zones and do something challenging but fun, and they get to do so without having to buy a bike, gloves and a helmet.”
TFK Charlotte is divided into three programs: the ride program, an earn-a-bike program and the group’s Recyclery, which repairs donated bicycles for use by participants or to sell to the general public.
The ride program was the first to garner public interest and support, says Fricke.
With partnerships with schools, the YMCA and intercity groups, TFK began working to find students ages 10 to 15 to take weekly bike rides at Beatty Park, located at 4330 Weddington Road. TFK maintains a locked trailer at the site with about 25 bikes. Bicycle shops, REI and area adult mountain bike clubs such as the Dirt Divas, Cannonballs, Rocky Road Cyclists and the Trailblazers offer both financial support and volunteer at the biking events.
In 2012, the group offered two rides at the whitewater center as well as special event trips to Georgia or Virginia bike trails that Fricke said are used as “rewards” for students.
She noted that two students will be selected for Camp Carolina in Brevard for a two to four-week program, and TFK has just received a scholarship for one student to attend an Outward Bound program.
TFK also runs an Earn-A-Bike program for the same age group, offering kids a chance to earn their own bike by completing a series of hands-on lessons in basic bike mechanics and safety - also focusing on personal responsibility, achievement and self-empowerment.
During “finals,” Fricke says students take a bike comprehension test and choose their bikes. They learn how to fit and wear a helmet safely and commit to its use. Kids participate in a skills course to test their bike, their bike handling skills and end by attaching lights to their bikes. The student comes away with a bike with a light, a helmet and a lock.
The third portion of TFK involves repairing donated bikes and selling them to the general public or using them in the Earn-A-Bike program.
The Recyclery is located in the NoDa area at 512 E. 15th St. and is open Mon. through Thurs., 3 to 7 p.m., Fri., 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sat., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fricke noted that the bikes that are sold range from $50 to $350 depending on brand name, with most bikes selling at about $150.
Conroy: 704-358-5353; Twitter: @ConroyKathleen
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