"Why I became a Trips for Kids Chapter Director" - Andree Sanders, Metro New York chapter
It was a beautiful spring day on May 2002. It was my birthday, and my husband took me to a bike show- There we saw a booth - the Trips for Kids booth. “Cool" I thought - other families that take their kids mountain biking. I had a 2 year old and he loved being pulled along the trails in his chariot. After a brief conversation with the director, we realized that this was so much more, so much bigger than just riding.
This was an opportunity to give back doing something we loved. We volunteered on our first ride a week later. There we were with 12 - 15 and 16 years old boys from a group home who were somewhat reluctant to ride. I had never done any social work before nor had I really taught anyone to ride, but the kids were looking to me as the expert. So, we started to teach and share our passion with these kids.
I worked especially hard with Angel, one of the kids. He was young and strong and a true challenge, particularly for a first time volunteer. He was not sure that he wanted to be there, the uncertainty and lack of control were unsettling to him. He was a rebellious kid, a natural leader, who did not respect authority figures. Then we started riding. The group found its natural bell curve and Angel was right up front with me. I got him to follow me, to do as I was doing, to stand on his pedals over roots, to lean his bike around turns, to pull on the handlebars as he climbed. As the blood started to flow through his veins, a sweat broke out on his brow, a feeling of excitement, a challenge he took on and was doing well with, all of this combined changed his body language. I looked back, I saw his smile, I felt his excitement, his sense of accomplishment. That was it - I was hooked.
The most beautiful thing we do is bring this sense of freedom, of excitement and accomplishment to each and every child we touch! It is contagious. In all my years, every ride I go on, I see these kids transform before my eyes. They start off hesitant, unsure of their ability, but with a bit of coaching, demonstration and team work they start to trust their abilities and go for it! They leave these ride different kids than when they arrived.
Over the years we wanted to make more of an impact, and wanted to see where this experience would take the kids, and that is when we started the ride club. This gives the kids the ability to ride on a regular basis. We used this as an opportunity to bring in families to ride together. It is amazing to watch these families build lifetime bonds. We provide an equalizer where at many times the kids adapt to riding faster than the adults and the kids get to teach their parents. Each and every ride is unique and touches everyone involved.
My favorite quote is from a 17 year old kid from the Bronx who had never been on the woods.
"My life changed for the better today. I learned that when you fall down, you get back up. And nothing, not even fear itself will stop Trips for Kids and its students from having a good time" - Oriel, Age 17
This says it all! Being the Director of Trips for Kids Metro New York has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done!