The question starts and ends with the children we serve.
Cyclisme is the name of an adult racing team started by our founder, John Benenate. Mr. Benenate, already an active community member, began to get children interested in bicycle racing as his team trained on the streets of Portland. Community cycling events (e.g., see Bike Affair in press pack) were John's first response. From those events and the children John already knew, the demand for a children's bicycle racing team in these Portland communities grew. Quite literally, John was swept away by the groundswell of children and parents interested in a bicycle racing team.
In those early days, it became apparent that these children needed more than what participation in the sport of bicycle racing could give them. To help with the children's academic progress, a tutoring element was developed. Steadily, John added more elements to the program like Rollers 101 at the Dishman Community Center and the Center for Self Enhancement. From the outset, the Cyclisme team was involved in the children's lives and served as mentors and offered logistical support. As a family, both the Cyclisme adults and the bike children wore the same racing jersey, which is important in cycling lore.
In 1996, b.i.k.e. was introduced to the "Kids on Bikes" program by the folks at the Olympic Training Center. The program now serves as the National Model (see US Cycling letter in press pack). The kids of b.i.k.e. become the coaches of the "Kids on Bikes" program, which offers them leadership and work experience.
Like looking at a Rembrandt from 30 yards away, painting the program with such broad strokes obscures the detail. Take Madre Stocker (14) for example. When he joined the team, Madre was in remedial classes and would hardly utter a word. Five years later, he has not only won five State Championships, but he is on the honor role and carries himself well on TV!
Another example is Anissa Cobb. She lives in a small trailer and her family has no resources, and is emotionally fragile. "Nissy" has been diagnosed with ADD, but when on a bike, she is focused and calm. In addition to winning two State Championships, her self-control has transferred to other areas of her life. For example, she is now doing well in school and the after-school program. She is well-behaved and a productive member of the class. If you knew Nissy like we know Nissy, you would be amazed.
Taking one last look, there's Aaron and Nick. These young men are white, but on the Team, there are no cultural distinctions. The cultural divide has been broken down. In addition to Aaron's four State Championships and Nick's 11, they provide the mechanical expertise to keep the team's stable of bikes in top shape. Overall, the academic improvements of the kids of b.i.k.e. have amazed all, but the founder.
From the auspicious beginnings noted above, the b.i.k.e. program only continued to grow and become even better at serving Portland children. In 2001, b.i.k.e. created the Oregon Bicycle Racing Regional Development Camp in order to expose children to national mentors and develop the children's skills in an unprecedented way. The camp was nationally recognized as the most significant event in at-risk youth cycling since the Harlem development camps sponsored by Mohammad Ali in the 70's. The Oprah Show filmed the b.i.k.e. camp.
As an entrance to the schools, b.i.k.e. started a pilot bicycle program at Jefferson High School called "Riding Bikes to the Museums." To continue to serve children interested in bicycling as a sport, Rollers 101 classes are now staples at three community centers. To help and inspire the children's educational dreams, a Scholarship Endowment has been developed. But all of this is where we've been, and like being in a bicycle race, forward is where you want to focus.
The future portends to be even more spectacular than our past. Originally, the founder funded everything from a financial settlement from an injury that left him confined to a wheelchair. With fundraising events like the Junior State Championship Brunch, corporate sponsorships, individual donors, and grants, a more stable financial position has been developed. A work mentoring program is being fine tuned with PGE/Enron. With the help of Nike, the Spring Development program for next year will be three times as big and set National Precedent for such a venue with this population.
For the coming year, those endeavors will keep the staff and volunteers of b.i.k.e. busy enough; we are ever mindful of keeping our growth to a manageable level. Looking forward, b.i.k.e. will expand the year-round component to a maximum of 50 children. If funding and opportunities allow, satellite programs would then be spawned in different areas of town where the need is pressing. The Kids on Bikes program will branch out to three and eventually six locations throughout Portland. Because of the phenomenal success of the pilot Jefferson High School program, b.i.k.e. is looking to expanding it to other high schools. Currently at three community centers, the Rollers 101 program can be expanded and the experienced Team members will lead those classes (see Nike article in the press pack).
b.i.k.e. is already a recognized National Model for the Kids on Bikes program and the Spring Camp. At racing events around the country, b.i.k.e. is already creating diversity and role models in the primarily white sport of bicycle racing. When the full program is operating like an elite racing team, we hope to take the National Model and start b.i.k.e. programs for at-risk youth in underprivileged communities around the country.
Until then, we'll ride along with the wind at our back, the MoJo being passed down the pace line, dreams of winning the World Championship, and the gorgeous landscape filling our souls as we skirt the river on the way to the Columbia Gorge. Come on a ride with us, dear reader. In the spirit of Benevolence, Simplicity, Good Form, and Team, if you get tired, the children will push you by hand and put a smile on your face. With your essential help, on a daily basis, we'll continue to Transform Lives, One Pedal Stroke at a Time.