City News

Kids can earn bikes, learn life-long lessons

Keith Sorenson explains bike maintenance to a student who earned the bike.
Keith Sorenson explains bike maintenance to a student who earned the bike. CHARLENE PRICE-PATTERSON

Getting a new bike can be a rite of passage.

The Earn-a-Bike program makes it possible for hundreds of financially disadvantaged children in the Charlotte area to become bike owners.

The program has only a few requirements. To earn their bikes, kids ages 10-15 must attend three two-hour classes to learn about bike safety, maintenance and basic repairs.

The nonprofit organization Trips for Kids Charlotte sponsors the Earn-a-Bike program.

Classes are held three Tuesdays of each month, 6-8 p.m., at the Trips for Kids Charlotte Re-Cyclery, the corner of 15th and Davidson streets.

Keith Sorenson leads the Earn-a-Bike classes. He’s been affiliated with TFKC since 2005. He said the interaction with the children is important.

“I enjoy getting their perspectives on life,” Sorenson said.

But, he also has a personal goal.

“I want to indoctrinate the next generation into the bike culture because it’s a passion of mine and it’s exciting to share that with young people,” he said.

The TFKC website explains how bicycling is used as a tool to prepare kids for success. The organization uses biking to teach children about respect, honesty, teamwork, overcoming challenges, healthy and safe lifestyles and community service.

Ride Program, which started in 2000. Though the Ride Program, 10- to 15-year-olds from Charlotte get to ride mountain bikes on Saturday mornings. People donated new and used bikes, and cash donations to help.

The TFKC Re-Cyclery is where the program gets its money. It’s like a warehouse full of used and donated bikes.

“We say our top priority is a dusty not rusty bike,” says Paula Fricke, executive director of TFKC. “We refurbish the bikes and re-sell them. Last year our total sales were over $150,000, which allows us to grow and serve more kids. The more income we can get, the more we can serve.”

The Earn-a-Bike program started in 2006.

“It was a great way for kids to not just earn a bike, but to learn how to take care of a bike, maintain it and learn how to ride safely,” said Fricke.

She was one of the three founders of the TFKC program. The idea came from a similar nonprofit program in the San Francisco area.

TRKC is primarily run by volunteers.

“We have the greatest volunteers in the world,” said Fricke.

Fricke is a former junior high math teacher and coach and she worked in the corporate world for many years. Since 2008, TFKC is now her primary focus. For her, the program is about a lot more than bikes.

“Our mission is to introduce kids to a healthy attitude. We’re using bikes to help children learn life lessons,” she said.

“If a child can make it to the top of a hill on a bike … that experience can be applied to overcoming obstacles. It gives kids a chance to see what they can accomplish in school or in life. They see that if you stick with it you can do it.”

The next Earn-a-Bike session will be held Aug. 11, 18 and 25.

Charlene Price-Patterson is a freelance writer:

Learn more:

For details about Trips for Kids Charlotte call 704-944-3581 or email The website is

Want a bike?

Here are the steps for earning a bike:

▪ First class: Kids begin to learn the names of the parts of the bicycle. Kids begin to learn how to change a flat tire.

▪ Second class: Kids take a bike comprehension test. Further test their skill on how to change a flat tire. Begin to learn the safety requirements of owning and riding a bike. All kids must be able to change a flat tire without adult intervention.

▪ Third class: Kids 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, test their bike handling skills and end by attaching lights to their bikes.

▪ Forth class, if needed: Allows kids to advance their basic knowledge of the bike with hands on lessons on their own bikes or learn more about bike safety.

SOURCE: Trips for Kids Charlotte