Twenty-seven years ago, Marilyn Price had an idea for an organization that would use a Marin County invention, the mountain bike, as a vehicle for social good.
She wanted to combine her passion for mountain biking and her concern for the environment with her desire to do something positive for underprivileged children.
So she founded Trips for Kids, a nonprofit that gets urban youngsters off the streets, onto mountain bikes and out in nature on group rides in the forests and hills of Marin and the Bay Area.
“They are all kids who otherwise would not have had this experience without us,” she said.
Trips for Kids filled such a gaping need in the Bay Area and beyond that there are now 70 chapters nationwide as well as branches in Israel, Sierra Leone and Canada. More than 145,000 young people throughout the country have had a mountain biking experience through the nonprofit Price formed in 1988.
“That’s the magic of Trips for Kids,” she said the other day. “We take them out into nature and away from the streets and the noise. That’s why it’s been so successful.”
In the beginning, she would lead rides herself. But, as the organization’s founder and executive director, she soon learned that the success and growth of the program required her to spend more and more time indoors doing administrative work.
“I didn’t know this kind of work was going to keep me at a computer 80 hours a week,” she said. “Sometimes I would scratch my head and wonder how this became such an administrative function when the real work is relating to the kids.”
So, at 75, she’s stepping down from her duties as executive director and going back to what turned her on to Trips for Kids in the first place.
“I’m going to go back to my roots and volunteer to lead rides with the kids again,” she said before heading off from her Mill Valley home for an afternoon bike ride.
With more time to do other things, she’s also looking to continue her environmental activism in other ways.
“One of my real loves is the environment, so I want to get directly involved in programs that are helping the environmental situation, which has only gotten more disastrous over the last 27 years,” she said.
Kim Baenisch, Trips for Kids director of operations, will serve as acting executive director when Price leaves the job at the end of December. Price will stay on as a volunteer and as a board member as the nonprofit looks to expand its national reach.
“All of us at Trips for Kids are so thankful for what Marilyn has created and the energy and devotion she has given to the organization over the last 27 years,” said board president Chuck Lesem. “We look forward to her continued involvement on the board and to fulfilling her vision to serve and transform as many under-served youth as possible through positive cycling experiences.”
As a pioneer in using the mountain bike to enrich the lives of inner city kids, Price was named a CNN Hero earlier this year.
“She has helped more than 25,000 at-risk children from the San Francisco Bay Area get off urban streets and into nature,” CNN said.
She has also earned a place in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
At a 2013 fundraiser for Trips for Kids, Gary Fisher, one of the inventors of the modern mountain bike, praised her and her organization for “showing kids there’s a better life.” Chris Lang, founder of the annual Tamarancho Dirt Classic mountain bike race in Fairfax pointed out that the youngsters who go on rides are mentally and physically challenged by them.
“Many of these children have never seen a mountain,” he said.
In addition to the bike excursions, the organization runs the Re-Cyclery, a bicycle thrift shop in San Rafael, and offers hands-on lessons on bike mechanics and bike safety that kids can take to earn credits toward a bike of their own.
“My favorite part of this has been the people I’ve met — the kids, the volunteers, our staff, the people in the bike community,” Price said. “That has been very rewarding. And also feeling that we’re accomplishing things with kids, teaching them about healthy lifestyles, exposing them to nature, encouraging them to use bikes for transportation and to protect the environment.”