We recently caught up with Rich Leever, VVCC Board Member, Road Advocacy Committee Chair and Bikes for Kids Program Manager.
Rich, what’s happening with the VVCC's Bikes for Kids Program?
We met with Cottonwood Superintendent of Schools, Steve King, and Elementary School Principal, Jessica Vocca, to discuss creating a mountain bike club at the school. Two teachers have volunteered to set up this club. We’ve donated one used bike so far to Cottonwood Elementary and have provided the school with a budget to purchase additional bikes for the club as well as funds to help maintain the bikes.
Once your name gets out in the Community that you want to help kids with bikes you never know what your inbox will reveal. Frank Martson, a teacher at Cottonwood Elementary School, reached out asking for financial support for an elective class called Tool Time. Frank teaches about basic electronics, basic carpentry, and a unit on bicycle repairs. We’ve provided several bike stands to Frank for the class. We have partnered with Chain Reaction for the school to receive bikes to repair beyond the ones donated to the VVCC and for bike transport to/from the school. This class reduces the need for Chain Reaction and the VVCC to expend funds for program bike repairs.
I also met with VVCC Member, Scott Keller, who is the principle at West Sedona Elementary several times. West Sedona School’s bike club wants to use donated/purchased bikes to expand the club as they have kids waiting to join. Teacher and VVCC member, Kaitlyn Propps, who runs the club, would like volunteers to help with training the kids on how to ride. We’ve been working to get members involved.
At my meeting with Cottonwood Mayor Tim Elinski and Yavapai County Supervisor Randy Garrison, they put me in touch with Kirsten Hastings who runs the Cottonwood Youth Center. We have provided two donated bikes to the Youth Center along with four kids bikes donated to Chain Reaction whose focus is on adults in need. The bikes have been brought up to serviceable standards and we have provided a budget to the Youth Center to keep the bikes maintained. We also let Kirsten know that we would like to donate a new bike to the Youth Center as something to be earned by a child. Kirsten’s working on figuring how best to implement this initiative.
Every child we get on a bike will be healthier and that will lead to other good things.
Rich Leever displaying VVCC/Chain Reaction donated bikes to the Youth Center
How’s fundraising been going?
Fundraising has been a real learning experience. You must ask folks and so far, no one who I approached has turned us down. The team at Verde Valley Bicycle Company “VVBC” consisting of Bill Jackson (owner), Doug Brown and Randy Young have really stepped up to the plate in support of the program. VVBC has committed to provide bikes at cost and assemble bikes at no charge in support of the program.
Absolute Bikes is providing free slime tubes for West Sedona Elementary.
Three local bike shops and VVCC sponsors, the Verde Valley Bicycle Company, Absolute Bikes and Trail Sports have agreed to offer a kids bike trade in program for parents shopping for new kids bikes. The VVCC purchases used bikes at reasonable cost creating a win-win for the child, parent, bike shop and VVCC.
The financial support from the community has been amazing. One VVCC member has contributed $1,500 to the program and we’ve received multiple $50 and $100 individual donations. Harkins Theater in Sedona is running the below Bike-for-Kids public service announcement over the holidays and we’ve submitted multiple grant applications for the program.
How else is the program supporting local schools?
This spring, the program will be supporting the bike rodeos at Cottonwood & West Sedona Elementary Schools. A bike rodeo is an event to celebrate the joys of bicycle riding and to teach the skills necessary to ride a bike safely. At the rodeo, VVCC volunteers will help with the various stations – helmet inspection, bike maintenance and bike riding skills – and we will be giving away three new bikes at each rodeo. Since I believe you can’t give bikes to kids without them having some skin in the game the Cottonwood and Sedona West Elementary Schools have created the following criteria for at need students to earn bikes:
- Select students earn bikes based on exceeding normal expectations for
- School principals create the challenge for students to undertake to win a bike
Kids that earn bike are kids that don’t have the means to own a bike as well as the motivation to use the bike.
Do you have any plans to expand beyond Cottonwood and Sedona?
Expanding to Clarkdale and Camp Verde is contingent on finding program champions. In the school system, this is one more thing added on during the day and they equate “we’re here to help” as “creating work” so the key is designing the program so that the result is not more work but rather visualizing the need. Example, just can’t donate bikes, you must provide funds for repair.
Any last thoughts?
I could sure use volunteers to help with all aspects of the program.
5 Minutes With is a running series of articles celebrating VVCC members who are making a difference for bicycling in the Verde Valley. If you know of a VVCC member that fits this description, please send their name to VVCC's Treasurer at email@example.com.