Local organization collects bikes for kids in need
Michael Camp, a resident of Cotswold and SouthPark Rotary member, spiked an interest in mountain biking after being introduced to the sport by his friend, Dennis Norwood, a member of the Tarheel Trailblazers mountain bike racing team.
Camp said their first ride together was more than three years ago with Trips for Kids Charlotte. Not only did Camp feel compelled to stick with mountain biking, but he also became passionate about Trips for Kids Charlotte – a nonprofit that provides mentorship to kids, who live in low-income Charlotte neighborhoods with challenging circumstances, through mountain biking.
“I’ve been a lifelong cyclist, but now I enjoy both on- and off-road biking, especially when riding with these kids,” he said.
Soon after his first Trips for Kids ride, Camp invited Paula Fricke, co-founder of Trip for Kids Charlotte to speak to the SouthPark Rotary about the organization, which immediately generated interest from rotary members. They asked Camp to spearhead a bike donation drive to support the organization. It’s been ongoing ever since.
“Most organizations come to us and ask for money, but Paula just wanted bikes,” Camp said.
SouthPark Rotary has collected and donated almost 600 bikes, raising $18,000 for Trips for Kids Charlotte.
Fricke explained the nonprofit’s three primary programs – Ride Program, Earn-A-Bike and The Recyclery – and how the bike donations support their mission. She said The Recyclery bike shop in NoDa helps financially sustain the organization by collecting used bikes and repairing them for resell or by giving them out through the Earn-A-Bike program.
The money raised through bike sales supports the Ride Program, which provides free Saturday morning one-on-one volunteer and rider mountain bike rides to groups of children 10 to 15 years old from the beginning of February through the third week of November.
The ride includes free use of mountain bikes, safety equipment and water bottles ,as well as a snack or meal. The ride program also holds day and weekend trips six times a year, such as a day trip to Virginia’s New River Trail or a weekend leadership retreat at Belk Scout Camp.
Kid-sized bikes are refurbished and available for participants to earn through the Earn-A-Bike program, where kids are required to complete six hours of training on bike safety, maintenance and repair.
When they finish training, Fricke said they earn a free bike, helmet and lock. The program grew out of a desire to provide riders, who didn’t have bikes at home, a way to keep moving when not participating in Ride program.
Fricke feels grateful for the support of SouthPark Rotary and said the income from reselling the donated bikes helps their programs continue to grow. She said they’ve been able accept more kids into the programs every year, serving 700 youth last year and 4,000 over the lifetime of the organization.
“The donation of bikes is a major reason we can reach more and more kids every year,” said Fricke. “Without those bikes we would not be reaching as many kids as we are.”
Trips for Kids Charlotte serves students who attend Hidden Valley, Albemarle Road, Montclaire and Pinewood elementary schools, McClintock Middle School, Joseph W. Grier and Thomasboro academies and Charlotte Freedom School Partners.
Fricke said being outdoors riding a bike presents youth with real-world challenges and opportunities for growth.
“We use the bike as a tool for kids to learn life lessons,” she said. “We teach them – respect yourself, wear a helmet; respect your bike and respect the trails. We emphasize working together and communicating to riders behind them about the route ahead, and we work on overcoming obstacles on the trail.”
Camp said he looks forward to volunteering every other week for a 10-mile ride with Trips for Kids Charlotte on local trails, such as Matthews-based Colonel Francis Beatty Park.
“It makes my life seem so much more meaningful; I’ve expanded my attributes beyond my own kids to 700 kids a year,” he said. “It’s so gratifying to reach beyond your own little world.”
SouthPark Rotary continues to collect used bikes. Email Michael Camp at email@example.com or text him at 704-400-2865 to make donations.
Visit Trips for Kids Charlotte at www.tripsforkidscharlotte.org/ for more information.