Trips for Kids Birmingham uses the Bicycle to Fight Childhood Obesity and Disease
Five years ago, while volunteering for Red Mountain Park in Birmingham, AL, Doug Brown read about Trips for Kids in American Trails Magazine and that moment changed his life course. At the time, Doug was a successful local insurance broker and avid cyclist, but he was searching for something more.
Birmingham is in the national top 10 for obesity and diabetes. With the obesity and diabetes crisis in the Birmingham area rising, Doug felt he could really make positive impact in his community by introducing kids to the benefits of biking. “We have great trails and parks in the metro area. There is a master plan to connect and build 250 miles of trail in the county over the next 30 years. Fifty have already been completed. I liked what I read about Trips for Kids in an American Trails publication. It seemed like a good fit. We have a lot of families here who are below the poverty level and I wanted to reach those kids.”
Today, Trips for Kids Birmingham is doing just that under the leadership of their volunteer executive director, Doug Brown, by exposing underserved kids to bicycle riding, state park visits and exercise that is fun. They also provide opportunities for kids to earn bikes through their Earn-a-Bike Workshop program which is based in their ReCyclery community bike thrift shop.
Doug doesn’t accept a penny for overseeing the organization and runs his chapter on a skeleton crew of volunteers and a part-time bike mechanic who receives a small stipend for all the work he does. All money raised goes back into supporting the organization’s programming, which includes their Earn-a-Bike Workshops, Discovery Trail Rides and Recyclery thrift shop.
Trips for Kids Birmingham has become a pillar in their community working with other area community partners by donating bicycles to other agencies, including Family Guidance Center, MLK Community Center, Christian Service Mission and Love Thy Neighbor Ministries.
In October, Doug was named Volunteer of the Year from Family Guidance Center, another local nonprofit which provides programs and services designed to enable people of all ages in Alabama to envision and achieve their goals. Doug was surprised and quite humbled by the designation. “All we did was donate bikes they needed.”
Doug shared that Birmingham recently updated their website with their new tagline, “Everyone deserves to know the joy of riding a bicycle". When asked what Birmingham’s greatest challenge was, Doug states, “We could reach so many more kids and do so much more for the community if transportation was not such a problem.”
For now, Doug focuses on the youth he can reach and takes great joy in knowing how introducing kids to bicycling has impacted their lives. Doug shared a recent story, “We had this great kid go through our Earn a Bike program and two weeks after his graduation, his grandmother called and said he had a problem with his bike. I went by his house and helped him fix it and while I was there, he told me that he had already ridden to the grocery store and the library. The happiness in his voice of how the bicycle allowed him to be independent and help his family makes this work worthwhile. His joy became my joy.”