By Dawn Weathersbee, T4KSC Board Secretary
He wouldn’t let me take a picture of him. It’s probably all for the best, because my photography could never have captured the excitement he expressed after his first Trips for Kids Santa Cruz ride. It’s an amazing and sad thing to hear a kid say, “Next Sunday, right?” when the next Sunday is on a holiday weekend and we are not hosting a ride.
The juvenile justice system brought him to us, and we hope it will leave him with us. This 16 year-old kid in his fancy new shoes, openly telling us about his jaded past, and wanting to ride a bike, stole my heart. These kids always do.
I have known kids throughout my lifetime of working with youth who just wanted an adult to listen to them without judgement. I know they did, because they often told me their stories unprompted. I feel blessed to have been able to guide them when they would listen. I have known women through my 20+ years of cycling that claim to have been saved by the sport. Cycling has gotten people through divorces, lay-offs and other traumatic loss. I myself have ridden my way through painful break-ups and other life transitions. You gotta’ admit, it’s healthier than drugs or alcohol when you’re healing from a psychic wound.
For me, the bike has been the gateway to health, fun, and friendship. It brings its own rewards. And the friends I’ve made from pursuing the sport continue to shape my life positively, including leading to my present job.
I want to continue to reap these benefits and pass them on. I want to teach kids who work out their issues through crime, drugs and violence that there’s another way.
It’s going to take adults to lead the way. Trips for Kids Santa Cruz has gotten the bikes, helmets, and water bottles. We will continue to find the at-risk youth. It’s up to the community to pitch in, and show up to get the kids out of the system and onto the bike.