Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)
1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."
There are many kids in our communities with invisible disadvantages. People don't look at my sister and I and think we're disadvantaged. No one knows that I am on the autistic spectrum or that shes battling a rare disease. There are kids all around us with invisible challenges that make their day to day experiences unique and sometimes difficult. It can be bullying or foster care, parents who are deployed with the military, or gone for other reasons. It could be ADD or PTSD or a hundred other unseen things that make a kids life harder. My bike gave me the outlet I needed when things got too tough and became a healthy coping mechanism. I wanted to give other kids, regardless of their personal circumstances, the opportunity to find that same freedom. I enlisted the help of my sister, who is an experienced non-profit leader and we began a movement called GearUp to "Get kids on bikes!"
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
According to studies, kids who regularly ride bicycles report better performance both socially and academically, better physical and emotional health over the course of a lifetime and less incidences of bullying, either as the aggressor or the victim and yet less than 5% of American children rode a bike on any given day in 2017. GearUp wants to change that because our founders recognize the power of two wheels to change a life.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
In order to increase the number of kids that are riding bikes, we have to improve access to bikes and build the appeal. I started out by forming partnerships and through those partnerships we have developed programs to address specific needs. For example, we saw that with high numbers of single parent homes, it is often hard to find someone to teach a kid to ride a bike and so we started a mentoring program where kids or adults can contact us and we get a local tracks to pair a mentor with local kids who want to learn to ride a two wheel bike. This led to our "Grab life by the Bars" events which are held with a focus on specific communities such as kids with special needs or kids with deployed parents. From there we heard that foster kids often can't get access to bikes and so I worked with local advocates to develop "bikes for kids" where we up-cycle gently used bikes to give to foster kids. Most recently, we wanted to get more kids on their bikes in the summer so we are starting a summer bike program. The key to all of this is finding solutions and then making those solutions easily replica-table and offering to teach others how to make changes in their own communities.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
We tell new members that they are making a commitment to take our ideas and should copy them as often as possible. None of our projects are secrets. We consider the GearUp community to be an incubator for our mission. We publish a newsletter, facilitate training calls, work with people out in the field who are already building bike friendly facilities and we try to bring together the best ideas we can find so that someone in Rhode Island can replicate the success of a well run program from Georgia and volunteers in New Mexico don't have to suffer the same challenges that a program in California just experienced. We recently signed on a new team and they told us that they have been struggling with recruiting volunteers for a certain program. We were able to connect them with a team from a similar community and now both programs are thriving and working together.
5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
When looking at ways we stand out, the most obvious is that there just aren't many people who are trying to get kids on bikes. We've looked for them and we can't find them (if you are reading this, call me!) It seems that there are lots of people who want to ride, but not that many who are working to get others, and especially kids in special circumstances, to ride as well. GearUp wants to get every kid on a bike and we are building as many partnerships as possible in order to do that. We want to create ideas that are sustainable and replicatable so that more communities can get kids on bikes.
6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
With a project like this, numbers are sometimes difficult to track down because when we facilitate a project, the ripples it causes aren't always easily measured. What we do know is that over 1,000 children have signed into GearUp sponsored events in nine different states so far and approximately 450 people have volunteered their time to support those events. We have member groups in sixteen states operating programs that get kids actively engaged in riding bicycles. We have 15 people in three states signed up and learning to start refurbishing bikes to distribute to Foster Children through our bikes for kids project and we have six organizations in six different states planning to hold Summer Bike Challenges this summer with a goal of 1,500 hours of ride time.
7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
Our Summer Bike Challenge pilot program is exciting and something that we are hoping to roll out to schools over the course of next school year. We envision being able to visit schools to hold bike rodeos, teach bike safety, help kids learn to ride in school and then send them off with their Summer Bike Challenge packets over the summer just like they take home summer reading packets and reward them upon their return to school in the fall. If we can build the resources to launch this program nationwide, that would be a huge boost to our program and our mission.
8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?
Funding the future roll out of the Summer Bike Challenge in schools across the country would be amazing. At the moment we are primarily using free and inexpensive marketing methods so to be able to really market the program and have support through that process would be a tremendous boost. We also need to finally get our own 501c3 - we have been operating under other organization's umbrellas but that makes it difficult to really make good use of the donor dollars and to get the grants we need when we need them to fund the work that we are doing and support the partnerships that we are building.
9. 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
10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.
I have partnered with other groups, including generationOn, Disney, and of course friends, family, and friends and contacts that I have made through competetive bicycle racing. I am always looking for new partnerships and ways to really build the organization.
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