Marilyn Price: The Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Makes Trips for Kids

August 01, 2007

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Marilyn Price's friendly, soft spoken, mid-western accented voice might be a bit misleading. The good natured sixty-five year old, originally from St. Louis is also one of a handful of people featured in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. With what seems like the energy of a twenty year old, Marilyn eagerly describes how rewarding her work to help at risk youth in her area is. Yet, her reach goes far beyond her Northern California community. Marilyn Price is the founder of Trips For Kids, an organization whose warm hug of advocacy reaches across the country. This national organization brings the experience of cycling to young persons who normally wouldn't have had that opportunity. Trips for Kids, and the Re-Cyclery are the brainchild of the long time mountain biker. Trips for Kids affords inner city kids the opportunity to ride into and experience the wonders of nature and the freedoms a bicycle can provide. The associated Earn-a-Bike program also provides the local kids the opportunity to earn their own bicycle and the pride that they develop in earning it. Begun back in 1986, the Trips for Kids program has grown to 50 local chapters nationwide, some of these have also instituted the Earn-a-Bike program as well. We decided that this great program had to appear here on the pages of Pedal Pushers Online, so we gave Marilyn a call...

Marilyn, how did you come to create the idea of Trips for Kids? Well, I had been mountain biking since the early eighties, but back in 1987 I was on a ride on Mount Tamalpais and I looked at the City across the Bay from the the top of the mountain and I thought, wouldn't it be great to bring some kids up here and have them experience this. I had two kids of my own and I guess that was part of what motivated me. I used to work at a soup kitchen for a couple of years as a volunteer and I thought, wouldn't it be great to bring some of the kids from the cafeteria up on the mountain. That was how the idea just popped into my head. My next thought was, is this something I could actually do? Then I read in Bicycling Magazine that two psychologists with the Y.M.C.A. in Los Angeles were running a similar program. So I wrote them telling them that I wasn't a psychologist, but that I wanted to start a similar program. Their advice was, do it. Start small but do it and that gave me the confidence that I could do it.

So how did Trips for Kids grow from a local activity into a national organization? Well it's the power of the news. In 1991 Bicycling Magazine did a three page article with color photographs and I started to get inquiries from around the country that were like "Wow! Just like me, what a neat idea, how can I do that?" And then the more national press we got over the next several years, the more inquiries I would get. That just planted the idea. That maybe we should try to start it on the national level and that's what we did in '99.

Now does each local chapter have to develop their own resources, or do the local chapters get some kind of support from National? How does it go about happening on a local level? First of all our web site has a wealth of information on this (www.tripsforkids.org). In terms of how to start, it outlines what we offer them and what they in turn must do. We have a bike sponsor that will give five new mountain bikes for each new chapter. We have a number of exciting industry sponsors that are so supportive and supply us with other needed equipment for the new chapters. So right now, we do provide new local chapters with five new bikes.

So, what we do is we give them the bikes and some other equipment but, more importantly we all share the name, the logo and the mission of taking inner city kids on mountain bike rides. We link together through all the information on our web site and through a listserv. When we get sponsorship money for a conference, we have a conference and underwrite some of the costs for local chapter people to get here. What they get is the benefit of our name and reputation.

Of course there are things that the local chapter must do to participate. First they must be some sort of legal not-for-profit, or a school or a government group. There are trademark agreements, and a million dollar liability policy, and they have to run safe trips the definition of which is spelled out in our materials. There is also a year end reporting requirement, but really it is quite a loose affiliation. They are their own non-profit, they have their own 501C3. But we are linked through name, logo and mission.

So Marilyn, lets talk about you for a minute. As I understand it you first got into mountain biking as a result of working at a shop? Yes it was the Cove Bike shop, run by the Koski brothers, Eric is in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame (ed note: so is Marilyn, she was inducted in 1996) he invented the Trailmaster. and back in the late 70's and early 80's the Cove Bike shop was one of the only places in the country, certainly the Bay Area where you could go to get a mountain bike outfitted. You could get an old Schwinn frame and get the parts from Cove. People like Mert Lawwill developed the Pro Cruiser, and guys like Steve Potts and Joe Breeze, would bring in and sell their frames, and people would buy parts and build their bike that way, and that was in the early 80's when I got into it. I worked with them as a salesperson, so that was my introduction to mountain biking. One of the two years that I worked with them we all loaded into the company van and headed out to Crested Butte, to the sixth Fat Tire Festival. I had done a little practicing in the hills behind my house with Eric's Trailmaster bike a few days before going up the Pearl Pass Tour and that was what got me hooked on mountain biking.

That was what probably got me started on the Trips for Kids. I had never been a hiker, I mean I was an urban woman, very interested in the environment on an urban level, but it took that mountain bike on that Pearl Pass Tour to make me realize the beauty of the outdoors. I just got absolutely hooked, and then years later in '86, I started to think about this program.

Talk to me a little about your bicycle recycle program, as I understand it this shop is part of what underwrites the Trips for Kids program. Well we have the Earn-a-Bike program and our Bicycle Thrift Shop which I think may be the biggest in the country. We get donations from the industry. I have been going to the Interbike Trade show for 18 years now and they have been wonderful in donating us their outdated inventory and seconds. Sometimes it is in huge amounts. So we have new stuff in our store as well as material which is donated from all over Marin County. And that's money that we use to fund our national program, from our Bicycle Thrift Store.

So from what you are saying here, the Thrift store is the place someone might go to find parts to restore an old cruiser? Do you have any online ordering available? Absolutely. We're the place for old and unusual parts, but we are not really ready for web sales or mail order. We're pretty much concentrated on the local Bay Area, We have a lot of bike shops recommend us for the hard to find old parts. We have a page on the Trips for Kids web site for the Re-Cyclery, but we haven't gotten into the web sales, just the Local Bay Area, but we do get donations nation wide. People pack stuff up and ship it to us.

Now the Earn-a-Bike Program, is that unique to your chapter? No there are about a hundred programs nationwide. The kids work to earn points toward a bike of their own, and along the way they learn bike mechanics. Now our Earn a Bike program is run out of a warehouse about a mile away from our Re-Cyclery, but it is a storefront operation and it provides an affordable bike outlet for the communities in the Bay Area.

So what is a bike worth in points? Well it depends upon the value of the bike. The kids earn three points an hour for real applied work.

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