#DoPublicGood is a project highlighting people or organizations that do good by bike. Each month we’ll be shining a spotlight on those who enrich communities all over through their two-wheeled advocacy. You can read our past #DoPublicGood profiles here.
If you have a nominee for #DoPublicGood, please let us know in the comments and if selected we’ll send you both a PUBLIC gift certificate.
In Vol. 9 of #DoPublicGood we’re highlighting Trips for Kids Marin, an organization whose mission is to provide transformative cycling experiences for underserved youth. Their programs build self-esteem, inspire healthy lifestyles and instill environmental values.
We interviewed Adam Smith, Trail Rides Program Manager at Trips for Kids Marin, about the organization’s 30th anniversary and how they have grown from a single chapter in Marin to one of the nation’s largest youth development bicycling organizations with over 75 chapters nationwide.
Tell us a little bit about how Trips for Kids Marin and its programs got started.
ADAM: Trips for Kids began 30 years ago in Marin county as the vision of Marilyn Price, a pioneering and passionate woman who wanted to help underserved, urban youth experience the transformative power of nature through a largely unrecognized but impactful youth development tool, the bicycle. She began organizing group rides out of her garage and quickly realized that in order to affect a larger number of youth and have the positive impact she desired, she had to scale up and legitimize the operation. Two years later in 1988, Trips for Kids was founded as an official non-profit organization and began leading off-road, mountain bike rides that focused on immersing urban youth in the spectacular natural beauty found in Marin County and challenging them physically on the bike. Marilyn knew that this was a powerful combination for positive youth development and with that, the Trail Rides program was born.
Since that first official ride in 1988, Trips for Kids Marin has taken more than 36,000 youth on trail rides around the Bay Area while currently working with an average 1,600 youth every year. Youth who attend the rides come from primarily low income, minority families and often have not ridden a bike in months or years and have rarely, if ever, explored their local natural spaces. Our Trail Ride program uses the bicycle to deliver an experience where riders practice new skills, explore nature and step beyond their comfort zone – this combination creates an impactful experience for our youth participants and leads to positive transformation during and after the ride. We bring all of the equipment needed for the ride including the bikes, helmets, gloves, water bottles and trained Ride Leaders.
In every closing circle debrief we hear kids saying things like, “That was so much fun! My favorite part was seeing the ocean (or wildlife) and getting to ride a bike for the first time since I was young.” Sometimes we have kids who haven’t ridden a bike since immigrating to America, or who are seeing the ocean for the very first time. Always, there are smiles and laughs.
We see the impact just one ride has on these kids, from the confidence they build over the course of the ride to the sense of accomplishment they feel by completing a typical 8-mile ride; the rides are great self-esteem builders. With some youth agencies we conduct rides on a recurring basis and the impact it has on those youth is even greater, due to the kids’ ability to practice and advance their skills and confidence. But even one magical ride through nature can be a transformative experience.
How have you expanded your programs over the years?
ADAM: In addition to the Trail Rides program, we provide two after school programs that focus on different aspects of the bike. Our Earn-a-Bike program teaches bike mechanic skills to kids in the San Rafael Canal Community, which is Marin’s lowest income neighborhood. The kids earn a bike by successfully mastering the skills of our 8-week curriculum, developing vocational skills useful for a career in mechanics, and learning lessons on the benefits of hard work and achievement.
Our Mobile Bike Workshop brings the fun (bikes and helmets!) to the kids at their school or organization and teaches safe riding skills over 10-12 week sessions. A new skill is practiced each week and the kids ride their bikes on the school grounds and in the local neighborhoods. We work with Marin elementary and middle schools to bring riding skills to those for whom transportation to open spaces is a barrier.
All of our programs are supported by grants, individual donations and revenues from our Re-cyclery Bike Shop. Our Re-cyclery mechanics refurbish donated bikes, salvage quality parts and help our customers purchase low-cost bikes, parts, clothing and accessories that meet their riding style. We accept gently used cycling-related donations every day. Shopping in our store or donating are both great ways to support our youth programming.
What are the organization’s plans for the future?
ADAM: Last year we created a new national non-profit called Trips for Kids National, to provide resources for and better connect our national chapter network; it will also be devoted to expanding our easily replicable cycling activities with more entities nationwide. This was a critical step to allow Trips for Kids Marin to focus entirely on quality Bay Area programming and an expansion of our services locally.
Trips for Kids Marin is already developing new partnerships to create new and unique youth cycling programs. We recently partnered with the Girls Scouts of Northern California and Heart of Central California to offer a brand new hybrid program called Learn it, Fix it, Shred it! This program combines our Earn-a-Bike and Trail Rides activities to teach girls basic bike maintenance in the morning and take a trail ride in the afternoon, focused on safety, fun and learning. We hope this pilot program will become a new national partnership between Trips for Kids and Girl Scouts of the USA, and initiate the development of an official Scout biking badge, which doesn’t exist yet.
How will you be celebrating your 30th anniversary?
ADAM: I invite all your readers to our two celebratory events in Marin this year! We’ll be hosting a Family Bike Festival on Saturday, July 21 at China Camp State Park, which will be a day of biking, BBQ and music for the whole community. We’ll host a bike rodeo, lead free trail rides for the kids, hand out prizes, and chow down on BBQ while listening to a fun live band. It’s going to be a great time outdoors and you don’t even need a bike to participate. As always, we’ll bring our bike fleet for the kids to use!
Our 30th Anniversary Gala will be held Saturday October 19 at the Mill Valley Community Center and feature a pedal powered live band and much merriment throughout the evening. Tickets will be available in advance online (get on our mailing list, sign up to volunteer, become a sponsor, or make a donation at www.tripsforkidsmarin.org) and will serve as a fundraiser to ensure we can continue to provide our transformative programs to youth for another 30 years!
And how can people get involved in the programs?
ADAM: If you’d like to join a Bay Area ride or donate your time and/or used cycling gear, or make a financial contribution please visit our website www.tripsforkidsmarin.org. Complete our volunteer application and our Volunteer Coordinator will be in touch with you shortly to discuss the best way you can be part of making a positive difference in the lives of young people through the power of riding a bike in nature.
To start a Trips for Kids chapter and learn about our national chapter network’s activities visit www.tripsforkids.org.