November 13-19, 2011 is Geography Awareness Week and the National Geographic Society is hosting its third annual Blog-A-Thon. This year’s theme is “Geography: The Adventure in Your Community.” It is about connections between people and their surrounding environments, local action, and, of course, geography education.
Today I will profile an organization that gives kids an opportunity to explore their local geography on a bike. The Trips for Kids™ youth biking program is a non-profit, volunteer organization that provides mountain biking outings and environmental education for kids who would not otherwise be exposed to these types of activities. Their goal is to combine lessons in personal responsibility, achievement, and environmental awareness through the development of practical skills and simply having fun.
The vision for the organization was conceived in 1986 while Marilyn Price was pedaling up Mount Tamalpais outside of San Francisco, California. During her ride, Marilyn was remembering the kids she saw during her frequent volunteering at St. Anthony’s Dining Room in the heart of the inner city. Most of those kids had never seen their city from the high up perspective of Mount Tamalpais, instead spending their days surrounded by cement and exposure to drugs, violence and gang involvement. She thought it would be great if these kids had a chance to challenge themselves physically. The idea for Trips for Kids combined her lifelong love of bicycling, an earlier desire to be a social worker, and her interest in environmental issues.
The program functioned as a pilot program for two years until becoming incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1988. The program continued to grow in the San Francisco area to provide a bicycle thrift shop called The Re-Cyclery and an Earn-A-Bike program that provides a safe environment for kids to learn skills and work toward earning their own bike and accessories. In 1999, the program started supporting the creation of additional chapters. The Trips for Kids national headquarters remains in San Rafael, California. They have also grown to have 76 chapters throughout the United States and Canada, in addition to one chapter in Israel. Each chapter is financially independent, but the national organization provides startup support and information sharing opportunities. The program is flexible which has resulted in a diverse set of chapters. Some have started earn-a-bike or bike mechanic programs for the youth they serve and a few have started a bike thrift shop to help pay for their expenses.
To date, more that 79,500 vulnerable, at-risk children have experienced a life-changing day mountain biking; an experience they would not have had without Trips for Kids.
So, how can you help?
Most of the Trips for Kids chapters would love to have volunteers to help them on the mountain bike rides with the kids they serve. Other volunteer opportunities would include office help, volunteering at events, serving on a chapter board, helping run earn-a-bike programs, and more. You can contact the chapter nearest you to find an opportunity for them.
You can also make a monetary donation to the national program to assist with program costs.