Kids attend Armourdale Levy Opening.
Bike Club ride at Central Middle School and Bethel Neighborhood Center
Bike Club at Rosarks.
"Earn a Bike" at Bethel Neighborhood Center.
"Let's Get Rolling" program at ME Pearson.
FreeWheels for Kids encourages kids to take on a healthy lifestyle by teaching them the basics of bike mechanics and bike safety. They are able to take the skills they’ve learned and the confidence they’ve grown into and make major changes in their community. I had the privilege to sit down with FreeWheels program director, Javin Martin, and learn more about how they improve kids’ health.
Q: Can you share with me a little more about what the empowerment aspect means to FreeWheels?
The mission of FreeWheels has three components:
- We empower kids with bikes
- We promote healthy lifestyles
- We ride with kids with bikes.
The empowerment aspect of it is, we go start out each semester teaching kids to repair bikes that we’ve received through donation. We start by teaching kids in-depth bike mechanics — all the way down to the ball bearings.
First they make a bike for another kid, which they take to elementary schools, and then they get to earn their own bicycle. That takes a couple weeks and then we go out and ride. It’s at this point we ask them, “What would you do to make your ride better?” or “What would you do to hang out in your neighborhood, why won’t your parents allow you to do that?” and whatever answer they give, we use that to come up with a plan that will allow them to do something in their community.
Q: What challenges have the FreeWheels Kids faced and how have they overcome those challenges?
Recently Central Middle School in KCK had an issue with an absence of sidewalks. Between the school and Central Avenue, there was no sidewalk, and their front yards curved directly down to the road so kids were literally walking on the side of the road — kids aged first grade through eighth grade. This was an obvious problem for them. The solution for them was to draw pictures of the change they wanted, make letter-writing campaigns, and go to the city council meetings and they got themselves a sidewalk.
The best way to get our government to listen is to have our kids talk to them and that’s the aspect of empowerment that we are trying to accomplish.
Q: Learning how to ride your bike is a major milestone in most children’s lives. What are some major milestones and accomplishments you’ve been able to witness during your time here?
Definitely watching the kids as they learn how to ride the bike, especially for the elementary schoolers. We have a large Burmese and Nepali population in KCK and bike riding isn’t as traditional among that demographic as it is in other demographics. Watching those kids learn how to ride a bike is awesome. The mechanic skills are pretty sweet, too. Most adults who have ridden bikes their entire life couldn’t tell you what the inside of their bike looks like, but our kids could.
The middle schoolers come help out at the elementary schools when we do our bike giveaway, and they get to point at those bikes and say, “I fixed that,” and knowing that they gave something to someone else is huge. It’s the same reason why it’s so great to go by a park; the kids get to say, “Yes, I planted those trees,” or “We painted that mural,” or “The reason the community now has a 15-mile bike lane is because we got it started.” Those seemingly petty accomplishments are incredible to witness.
Finally, seeing the transformation in their attitude and understanding of health and fitness is so fun to watch. That’s awesome. I love seeing that.
FreeWheels for Kids is currently working on renovating Jersey Creek Park. Read more about their latest project.
This blog post is part of A Healthy 10.