North Florida Youth Expand Horizons by Mountain Biking

written by Boys Town and published in their newsletter about Capital City Cyclist’s Kids on Bikes Program & Trips for Kids.

What started out as a passion in Family-Teacher®, Brian Heck, has grown to be a source of challenge, pride and enjoyment for a group of Boys Town North Florida youth and some Tallahassee bike enthusiasts – The Capital City Cyclists (CCC).

For the past couple months, this group, as part of CCC’s Kids on Bikes program, has been meeting up and taking two to three hour mountain biking trips.  The endeavor has fostered new bonds among the youth and volunteers.

“I wanted to incorporate my passion and have the kids try it out, but we didn’t have bikes,” said Heck.  “I met a few avid cyclists and one happened to be Jack.”

Jack Tomassetti and fellow CCC member, Ken Foster, have been the main contacts for Heck in the building of this program.

Foster has gone on rides with the youth and seen the positive effects these trips can have.  “I have seen some of the kids who didn’t think they were going to do it, or make it, or do very well, become more determined to be successful overcoming the obstacles of the trail, or not being able to ride a bike,” said Foster.  “I love seeing the look on their face knowing they can do it and being more confident the second time out.”

Both Heck and Foster commented on the positive attitude the group has while biking.  Whether it’s helping a fallen biker or cheering on those in the back of the group as the ride comes to a close, the youth are constantly providing amazing encouragement and showing signs of personal growth. In the process, characteristics like trust, paying attention to instructions, positive communication, self-confidence and teamwork are being reinforced.

In addition to character building, mountain biking also provides a new outlet of enjoyment among the youth.  Heck says that the most rewarding part of the ride for him is before it even starts.  “Right when we’re about to take off, all the kids are lined up,” said Heck.  “It’s exciting to see all these kids enthusiastic about riding bikes on trails.”

As the relationship builds, Kids on Bikes continues to become more involved in the lives of the Boys Town youth.  After their trail rides, the group will get together and share some food.  The most recent ride was followed by burritos, courtesy of Moe’s Southwest Grill.  Both Heck and Foster agree that this is a program they’d like to carry on.

According to Foster, CCC is part of an organization called Trips for Kids® (TFK®), a worldwide nonprofit that provides bikes and equipment so that more kids can have the opportunity to experience mountain biking.  TFK has over 80 chapters in Canada, the United States and Israel, and has provided cycling opportunities to over 100,000 at-risk youth since 1988.

Foster says he’d encourage other Boys Town locations to seek out organizations like TFK®.  “There are lots of good programs that allow kids to work more and potentially earn a bike,” he said.  “There are large groups that they can go ride with around the state or country.  Cycling is a great social opportunity for the kids, and they’re learning a lifelong lesson.  You can ride a bicycle forever.”