We get a great many emails from parents asking if we teach kids to ride a bike and we do not (may be we should - food for thought) but here is a great video on how to tech a child to ride a bike from our friends at BikeRadar.
With the recent New England weather it is hard to think about cycling programs but that is exactly what we are doing at Seacoast VeloKids. Winter is our planning and administrative time and we have plenty to do in 2015.
This year we took on the challenge of becoming our own independent 501.3c. Since our inception we have been a "pass through" organization under the"umbrella" of another non-profit; Seacoast Area Bike Routes/Riders (SABR). It was a very smart way to start our organization as it allowed us to instantly start receiving donations without all the costs and time associated with establishing a new independent 501.3c.
So why change? Well. as our organization grows, and our goals expand there are reasons why we becoming your own 501.3c makes sense. The most motivating factor is our ability to apply for grants (i.e. Grants from places like People for Bikes, The NorthFace, etc). These grants represent the financial support we need to grow and are largely only available to independent 501.3c organizations. We quite simply would not be eligible as a "pass through" organization. It is a bit of a bet; we will spend several hundred dollars to establish our independent non-profit status and if the grants don't come....well. But we have a crack team on this and I am confident we will prevail.
Becoming our own non-profit takes time, costs money and is hard work. We had to establish by-laws, articles of incorporation and an official board. (Somehow I was elected president). We will have to handle our own taxes, bank accounts and other traditional business costs.
So what does this all mean in the grand scheme of things? Well, I think it means that we need to be patient. (read here that I need to be patient) I have always pushed for us to keep taking on more, keep expanding, stay focused on our vision. Anytime I have been afraid we will not have enough money or staff for a given program or event - I have pushed on; "We will pay for it somehow" or "we will find the staff". This approach has been largely successful but at the cost of some of our very committed volunteers and temporarily, my personal bank balance.
We will expand in 2015 but more cautiously. We plan to move across the river to Kittery, working with the local recreation department. More importantly in 2015 we will be building the foundation for real growth in 2016. So part of the art of patience for me will be keeping my eye on the prize; 2016.
Here is an older post that somehow never made it
Ok, so it's a trailer...what's the big deal?
Well the big deal is that it is "our" trailer. Our 'first" trailer and we are pretty stoked to have it. This trailer allows is to transport bikes from school to school so that we can provide youth cycling programs for more kids with less money. Win! This spring we will run Three 6-week programs at three different elementary schools. Programs are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for 6 weeks in May and June
This trailer also allows us a way to store the bikes between programs which saves me from driving every day back and forth between the schools and my mother in law's barn. This trailer means we can scale.
But most of all this trailer is a great symbol of our growth - the growth of Seacoast VeloKids. In March of 2013, before our first program ever, we had no idea how to transport the bikes. That's when Papa Wheelies lent us there van. Once I had to load ten 24" kids mountain bikes on my Subaru.
So the crew got together last night and we set up the interior of the trailer to hold 10 bikes, 3 helmets, and 8 tote bins full of supplies.
Thanks to al
As far as the program goes we made a decision very early on that we wanted high quality bikes for our riders. Quality was important for two primary reasons; Safety and Durability.
Here at Seacoast VeloKids we have some pretty strong convictions about how and where to buy bikes. If we summed them up they would be; Buy Quality/Safe; Buy Local; and Buy Smart
Buy Quality and Safety
First and foremost when buying a bike for anyone (especially a child) think safety. A child's bicycle should be well made and professionally assembled. I have seen far too many well meaning dads assemble bikes from Target or Walmart who are unknowingly putting their kids at risk. How much risk?
I recently read "In 2011, Walmart settled a lawsuit filed by a West Virginia couple who claimed their son was "thrown over the handlebars and hit the pavement face-first" when the front wheel of his bike broke free from the fork. Walmart blamed the bike's manufacturer, Pacific Cycle, for allowing "untrained personnel" at Walmart to assemble the bikes. The terms of the settlement were sealed by a judge and remain confidential."
This same article had an undercover reporter buy 4 bikes from big box stores and 3 of four failed safety inspections.
Link to article
I always recommend buying from your Local Bike Shop (LBS). Not only will you get a safer bicycle but you will get one that is properly sized for your child and one that can grow with your child. Buying local always makes more sense it keeps the impact of your consumer spending local - in your community. Also, local bike shops are the backbone of organizations like Seacoast VeloKids and if you enjoy our programs please support your local bike shops.
There are two great ways to buy smarter when it comes to purchasing a kids bike.
The Seacoast VeloKids 2014 Kick Off Event is 2 hours away and I am somewhat of a nervous wreck.
Just over a year ago VeloKids was just an idea...an idea that I alone carried in my head (and my heart). As the year progressed I share the idea with more people, it resonated and the vision grew. So many wonderful people joined the cause and we accomplished a tremendous amount in just one year.
Flash forward to now and it is 2014 and we have gone from "me" to "we" and Seacoast VeloKids, under the direction of myself and a 9 person steering committee, is about to have our first ever event. A kick off event for our 2014 year. Like many things we knew what we wanted to do with this event...but had no experience on which to rely. How hard could it be? Hold an event; tell people what you are doing; make it resonate; convert them to the cause. Well...it is harder that it looks.
I think part of the problem is I have a job that is NOT Seacoast VeloKids (and two kids, a dog and a busy wife). All of us on the steering committee have "day jobs". This is where the sleep deprivation comes in...We have all been working really hard to make this event happen.... and I am nervous. I want it to go well. I need it to go well.
So tonight it is "on" and all we can do is take a deep breath, share our passion for youth cycling and enjoy the moment. We have come a long way.
As we look forward to 2014 we are very excited about not only the potential types of programming We feel like we can do but also by the number of kids we have the opportunity to impact.
We feel that Seacoast Velokids has the momentum to go from one elementary school program to four or even five this spring.
It is our ambition to take our Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day event and conduct it in both spring and fall.
We want to add a summer program not only for kids moving to the next level of thee cycling but also a program to teach adults who want to ride with their VeloKids.
We feel we can take our Middle School program from one to three or four schools and even look at a potential first time high school program.
Goals and ambitions are great but it will take not only funding but a lot of hard work. This year we have matured from and organization of one or two dedicated individuals to a steering and organizational committee of ten talented and diverse individuals. Already we have had a very busy two months of planning as a committee.
We are also looking to improve our performance in not only the funds we raise but in how resourcefully we use those funds. For instance in 2014 we plan to not only acquire additional bikes for our school programs but also an enclosed trailer. This trailer will allow us to move the bikes from school to school getting more from out current and future investments and it solves a long term storage problem.
This year we are also planning our first annual fundraising and awareness event. With this event we hope to bring on more sponsors and increase the donations through increased awareness about or programming and community impact.
With our ambitions plans for 2014 there will be new and unforeseen challenges for certain. But just as last year we will meet them with the same enthusiasm and dedication. In short...Bring It On.
2013 was quite a year.
In January of 2013 we were still basically just an idea - granted we had a website, a mission statement and a five year plan - but we hadn't done anything. By February we were planning our first program and trying to raise funds. In the last week of March we just about fell apart...
When I say "we" I should qualify that as me the the organization (noting that the organization consisted of me and one other person - Alex) and basically he was fine...so I guess I fell apart. We didn't have the funds for the first program and were at our go/no-go date for the school. I went for a bike ride that morning with Dan Houston and Josh Pierce of Papa Wheelies (our LBS) and said that I didn't think we were going to be able to have our May program. Dan and Josh asked what I needed as we rode that day and then proceeded to address every point. "Use the Shop Van" for transportation; "Tell us what bikes you need - pay us later" and even a promise that I could return what I could not pay for after we used it. Basically they saved the program in it's earliest stages. I will always remember that day, and that ride, with Dan and Josh.
In April the money came in - our sponsors in 2013 were fantastic - we paid all the bills. We held the May program at Dondero Elementary School in Portsmouth and we had 10 happy VeloKids and as an organization we learned a lot. The program, while small, was a huge success with the school, the parents and most importantly the school.
After our first program we regrouped in June, July and August (I rode the Mt Washington Hill Climb) and set our goals to conduct more programs in the fall. As we looked to expand to additional schools we found the schools were receptive but the two of us (Alex and I) were not going to be able to cover all of them. We needed more people. As we recruited more help we did not position them as well as we should and a lot of our planned programs for that fall just never got off the ground - lesson leaned.
In September we did get a program at Portsmouth Middle School with 12 kids and it was a very well received program. In October we had our biggest success was at our Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day at Stratham Hill Park. 150 kids, bike races, bike rodeo (we didn't even really know what that was before this event), group rides and a VIP appearance by Ted King. The event was planned in less than 8 weeks for under $500 but was a huge success.
The fall Middle School program wrapped up in November and in December we started top think about 2014...
So, I guess were a big deal now eh? Seacoast VeloKids was in the Portsmouth Herald (online at least - I really need to get my hands on a real paper). The link is here: http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20130610-NEWS-306100337
We are really excited about the exposure for the program and appreciative of the Herald for taking an interest.
I can say in hindsight that it was not the best day for the paper to show up. It was the last week and the parents were arriving soon for our end of program presentation (so that had me slightly stressed). Plus we had a coach that was unable to make it due to a work conflict. So like I said, not the best day for something extra.
So I did the best I could to work with the kids while answering the media's questions. It occurs to me (again in hindsight) that I am not very good at this sort of thing (and need to get better). I work in development at a software company so talking to the media is not in my immediate wheelhouse (so to speak).
After reading the article I thought it was good. The quotes from the kids were the best part. I am also glad they mentioned our sponsors (though not all of them) ...the sponsors have meant so much to the program. I wish I could have conveyed more how much Papa Wheelies has helped this program.
Again, all in all, really happy that we made the paper. Thanks to Principal Callahan for getting the attention of Seacoast Media Group.
We are very excited that today we got the list of 10 kids that have signed up for our spring program. We are capping our inaugural program at 10 children for a number of reasons. But we got our first ten kids in the first two days that registration was open - awesome!
The registrants are a nice representation across all grade levels (3-5) and we are delighted that 6 of the 10 registered kids are girls - GO GIRL POWER!
Course starts on May 2nd - We can't wait.
Rounding turn one
Today we did a test run of the course. Our goal was to make sure that we had our course design all dialed in before our inaugural class in early May.
Our test riders were my two kids, and while they enjoyed riding the course they were a tad bored during the set up.
Earlier in the weekend we went out and bought supplies, and did the necessary carpentry (minimal) to create our course marking stakes.
This entailed cutting the treated lumber in to stakes, sanding down the stakes to eliminate splinter problems and cutting in slots on the top of the stakes for the field tape.
Then we headed out to the school to test out our design.
We came armed with 48 stakes and decided when all was said and done we will need 68.
Our course will measure 450 feet in length with three 80-90 foot straightaways; an "s-works" section; three 90 degree turns; one 180 degree turn; all ending in a 50' home stretch.
We will use about 800 feet of field tape to mark the course.
The course length will allow us to spread this kids out. This allows the kids to stay active and busy (with a coach monitoring) but also allows each rider to have dedicated time in the "skills lane" with a coach as they make their way through that part of the course.
The test riders liked our course, my seven year old said it was hard to ride through because she had to "slow down in the turns" (kind of the point).
First time, by myself with, no real plan, I set and marked the entire course on 27 minutes. Two coaches and a plan can do it much faster.
A good day
All said and done it was a good day, I am feeling good about our game plan for the first program.
It's a good course (rideable yet challenging) and should only get easier to set as we get familiar with it on a weekly basis.
Plain talk from the founder of Seacoast VeloKids. This blog represents the candid and honest thoughts on the challenges and joys of changing the world one bike and one child at a time.