Near the entrance of Hidden Valley Elementary hangs a bulletin board where teacher Terri Nemeth posts photos of beaming fifth-graders biking the wooded trails of Colonel Francis Beatty Park in south Charlotte.
Mixed with the smiling photos are shots of some of the students with skinned elbows and bruised knees – a sort of badge of honor for the kids, many of whom rarely see the woods, let alone ride a bike through them.
Localized from a national organization, Trips for Kids Charlotte offers kids from troubled neighborhoods a chance to escape for a few hours on most Saturday mornings. The organization also offers an Earn-a-Bike program, which involves kids learning how to repair bicycles and getting a free bike after completing three classes, and a Re-Cyclery where people can donate and buy used bicycles.
And it's all run from a small shop stuffed with donated bikes at 15th and North Davidson streets.
Started in Charlotte about eight years ago, Trips for Kids has organized rides for thousands of kids at Colonel Beatty Park and Davidson's Fisher Farm Park.
“A lot of them ride bikes in their streets and in the neighborhood, but very rarely do they have a chance to ride on trails through the woods,” said Trips for Kids board member Harry Johnson. “It's a challenge, and the kids are beat when they're done, but they just light up.”
For those who don't even own a bike, the Earn-a-Bike portion gives them a chance to do just that.
Kids who participate go through three two-hour sessions and learn about all of a bike's workings. An estimated 300 kids have earned bikes in the two years that the program has existed.