“Whoa, man, did you see that?!” Matt slams on his brakes and jumps off his bike in hot pursuit of the first lizard of the day. Minutes ago he had been instructed on the rules of the trail and the importance of avoiding sudden stops by trip leader Maria Hudnut, who cannot help but smile at Matt’s reckless enthusiasm. His friend Rick scurries over the side of the trail, and soon emerges with the lizard in hand.
TRIPS FOR KIDS USES BIKES AND TRAILS AS A MEANS TO OPEN NEW WORLDS TO YOUNG PEOPLE - (PHOTO BY WWW.MARKHAMJOHNSON.COM)
The boys are from Edgewood Children’s Center, a home for abused children in the San Francisco Bay area, and they are on one of the few escapes they make out of the city and the heartbreaking realities of their lives. The kids are only a half hour car ride from home, but the hundreds of acres of open space serve as a reminder that they have entered a world vastly different from their own.
Started by Marilyn Price in her garage, Trips for Kids has grown to include two Re-Cyclery thrift shops for bikes and gear. The sites provide bicycle maintenance instruction and the chance for kids to work in the repair shop and eventually earn their own bikes.
Back on the mountain, 12-year-old Rick is struggling with a steep section of the fire road.
Becky, his volunteer guide, helps him push his bike up the hill while trying to coax a few words from the quiet boy. Matt’s bursts of energy are increasingly interspersed with stops for rest, water, and lizard chasing. As he nears the top, he gathers up his resolve and stands on the pedals, victoriously crossing the trailhead gate while the group cheers him on.
These boys have personal challenges ahead of them and a single day on the mountain probably won’t change the course of their lives, but perhaps the seeds of some valuable lessons have taken hold today– love for the outdoors, respect for the environment, the satisfaction of meeting physical challenges and, of course, the pure joy of catching lizards.
Operating in the United States, Canada, and Israel, Trips For Kids® has opened the world of cycling to over 75,000 at-risk youth since 1988 through mountain bike rides and Earn-A-Bike programs.