GearUp aims to get kids riding bikes to improve their social and emotional skills in order to overcome challenges.
Founder Harrison Barnes at the 2019 ESPY Awards
Local News Show featuring GearUp
Working on bikes with Program Participants
Attending the opening of a bike trail
GearUp rider after a coaching session
GearUp participant riding a two-wheel bike for the first time
Working with Special Olympics Athletes at the XGames
Working with Special Olympians at the XGames
Presenting a donated bike to a new rider
Accepting a bike donation from a GearUp participant
Working with Riders
Article in Pull Magazine
Mentoring a rider
Walking the Red Carpet at the ESPN Humanitarian Awards
Working with Special Olympics at the XGames
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102 Delaware Ave Bridgeville, Delaware 19933
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Date You Started Your Project Started
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)
1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
The number of children riding bicycles in the United States has declined more than 30% since the year 2000 and estimates are that less than 5% of American kids ride a bike on any given day despite studies showing that actively riding a bike improves school performance, social interactions, graduation rates, self esteem and physical health in kids. Helping more kids to ride - especially kids who are already facing challenges - can improve outcomes
2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
GearUp helps get kids on bikes by focusing on removing barriers and increasing awareness of the benefits to cycling. Our core programs include:
Bikes for Kids - volunteers accept donated bikes, refurbish them and distribute to kids in need of a bike
GearUp Mentoring - helps kids by matching them with a mentor to teach them how to ride or help encourage them to ride
Friendly Tracks - partners with organizations around the world to help increase the availability and community awareness of safe spaces to ride
Summer Bike Challenge - rewards kids who ride their bike during the summer school break
3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?
I was diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder as a young child. Learning to ride a bike and then becoming a competitive cyclist helped me to overcome barriers I was told were impossible. I did some research and learned that there is a lot of evidence showing that bike riding has a clear therapeutic benefit. In the course of my research, I also learned that the number of kids riding bikes has dropped since 2000 and continues to drop each year. With rising rates of anxiety, depression, bullying and teen suicide, I saw cycling as an answer to the question "what can we do?" Cycling gives young people an outlet and an opportunity to build community connections. Regardless of the challenge - whether it is a developmental disability or a mental health concern or even something like an incarcerated parent or a kid being bullied - cycling can help kids overcome just like it helped me.
4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”
5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
People get involved with GearUp in many different ways - we engage hundreds of volunteers every year and so far more than 5000 kids in several different countries have participated on some level. An example would be a summer bike challenge participant. Families or guardians sign a child up for the bike challenge and that child then records the number of hours they ride during the summer. Participants submit record books and prizes are given based on the number of hours they rode along with other bonus factors. Another example would be a local facility that wants to offer a safe space to ride but needs help finding volunteers to run their program or help to build awareness. GearUp volunteers with those skill sets then offer free consultations to help cover their need. A final example would be a kid needing a bike who reaches out. We find and rehab an appropriate bike at no cost.
6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
Using cycling as a means of addressing social and emotional challenges has been shown through research to be effective and yet there are only a couple programs working to promote this relatively simple idea. The few programs that I have seen all charge participating schools or community organizations and so GearUp is the only program out there working at absolutely no charge to participants.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
GearUp has impacted more than 5000 children in at least four countries, we have worked with more than 30 groups or organizations to help create or further develop safe spaces for kids to ride, we have engaged more than 250 Summer Bike Challenge participants in more than 9,000 hours of riding and we have provided nearly 50 bikes to children who otherwise would not have had access. Additionally, we have facilitated dozens of one to one mentoring relationships for kids to learn or improve their riding skills.
8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
To grow this program, we need more visibility and partners who can help us to build the Summer Bike Challenge. We need more partners and volunteers to sign on in other areas to offer GearUp services in their community and we need help to better raise funds to be able to provide more help with kids who need membership fees paid in areas where a safe place to ride requires a fee. We are looking forward to partnerships we have recently created that are going to allow us to work with an adaptive bike building program for kids with physical limitations and to promote the Bike Challenge to a wider audience.
9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?
10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations less than $100
Donations between $100-$1k
Donations between $1k-$5k
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White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?
How did you hear about this challenge?
Participated in previous Ashoka challenges