The Rapidian

Major Taylor Cycling aims to improve physical, social and emotional health of youth

A new after-school program helps kids get healthy while exploring their neighborhoods
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About NPO Showcase

NPO Showcase highlights nonprofit and government organizations and the work that they're doing in our community. The program is a feature of GRTV, a service of the Community Media Center, with producer and host Julie Way. You can catch it on GRTV on Saturdays at 8 AM and 6 PM and can view past episodes on the Grand Rapids Community Media Center website. If your nonprofit would like to be interviewed on NPO Showcase, please contact Julie Way.

Earlier this year, Sandra Bentley’s grandson was looking for an after-school biking club to join in Grand Rapids. “He couldn’t find one, so we decided to create our own!” says Bentley, Executive Director of Major Taylor Cycling of Western Michigan.

And so a new chapter of the national organization was born here in West Michigan. “The program was designed for urban children, to get them more involved and see how far biking can take them. It comes with a curriculum, and also talks about the social, emotional, and physical pieces of biking, and it’s another support system that our kids need,” says Bentley.

The program will be piloted through Grand Rapids Public Schools starting early next year. The curriculum entails bike safety, safe routes, and helmets, which are a must-have to participate. Students will also learn about Major Taylor, an American cyclist who overcame racial discrimination to set multiple world records, and the namesake for the organization.

“When [Sandra] came to me, gave me the whole format, I knew it was what at-risk kids needed,” says Deon Sperling, a member of the Board of Directors for the organization. “You’re meeting kids from different backgrounds, and you’re all on the same playing field. [Biking is] good for asthma, it’s good for weight loss, and it’s good for just getting outside.”

“The kids that we’ve been working with, they hate to miss even one week of riding [if the weather doesn’t permit],” says Bentley. “[We] rode the 12 mile route in this year’s Gran Fondo, and they were very excited to have accomplished that…none of us had any riding skills [before] so that was huge for us.”

Bentley and Sperling also credit the city’s bike trails and community support as crucial pieces to getting the organization up and running.

The organization is looking for volunteers to help teach the curriculum, lead bike rides, or even just drop off a healthy snack for the kids. They're also looking for donations of used bicycles, even if they need small repairs, and will pick the bikes up from donors.

Meet Bentley and Sperling and hear more about the organization in GRTV’s NPO Showcase interview above, or catch it airing on GRTV and LiveWire starting tonight. You can also learn more and get in touch to schedule a bicycle donation pickup by visiting Major Taylor Cycling of Western Michigan's website.

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