Pedal Party to Bring Bicycles, Fitness to At-Risk Youth

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Children from the Martinez Street Women's Center (left to right) Esmeralda (12), Ellie (11), Ashlynn (12), Samantha (11), and Macayla (9). Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

A group of young women from the Martinez Street Women's Center participate in the Earn-A-Bike program. (left to right): Esmeralda (12), Ellie (11), Ashlynn (12), Samantha (11), and Macayla (9).

In celebration of six years of service to the community, the Earn-A-Bike program is hosting a Pedal Party to support its mission of ending childhood obesity in San Antonio by arming children with wellness tools that will last a lifetime.

The fundraiser will take place on Thursday, Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Brick at the Blue Star Arts Complex. Tickets are available here.

Earn-A-Bike is a local outreach organization that offers bicycle maintenance and education classes to the community. The organization’s Executive Director and founder Christian Sandoval outlined to the Rivard Report how the program has evolved since its inception in 2011.

What started as a bicycle co-op, where children could work in a bicycle shop for 12 hours to earn their own bike, now partners with youth in at-risk schools. During the seven-month program, children meet with organizers once a month to learn about bicycle maintenance and safety, nutrition, health, and wellness.

Sandoval said at-risk schools typically see students who struggle with attendance and behavior issues and have poor academic performance. The program works to give children an incentive to improve their behavior and performance.

“We have an academic, behavior, and attendance metric,” Sandoval said. “Those who complete [the program], keep up their grades, and have good attendance and good behavior earn a bike.”

Participants who succeed receive their bicycle in a ceremony that takes place during Síclovía.

The program also works with parents and guardians, teaching them about B-Cycle stations throughout the city, bike sharing, maintenance, and safety. “We combine health and wellness with the engagement by also teaching the parents,” Sandoval said.

Earn-A-Bike board member Dr. Thomas Schlenker told the Rivard Report that cycling doesn’t just promote health, it also helps people better connect to their neighborhoods and communities.

“It’s not only a form of exercise … It engages people in activities that show them where they live and how to get around,” Schlenker said. “They form friendships and affinity groups around bicycling. It has to do with both physical health and healthy development and socialization.”

The Pedal Party at Brick will include door prizes, a raffle, a silent auction, and live music. Earn-A-Bike board member Benoosh Safavi Broumand told the Rivard Report that the fundraiser will include an olive oil and wine pull, where attendees can bottle the goods directly at the event.

The fundraiser is an opportunity for people to gather and hear more about the organization, have fun, and support a great cause, Broumand said, adding that her passion for preventing childhood obesity in San Antonio stems from having two daughters, ages 10 and 12. When she saw the prevalence of childhood obesity in the city she wanted to get involved.

Broumand grew up riding a bike, which she describes as “a fun activity that once you learn, it stays with you for life.” If given the opportunity, the children targeted by the program “would also start riding and getting into healthy life habits,” she said.

In 2014, approximately 12.7 million U.S. children between the ages of 2 and 19 (or 17%) were obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Texas, 32.4% of children age 10-17 are overweight or obese.

Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be obese as adults. Being overweight or obese can put children at higher risk for health problems early on and as they age. In Bexar County the prevalence of obesity in adults in 2014 was 32%. 

Between June 2015 and June 2016, 1,238 people earned bicycles through the Earn-A-Bike program in schools and the community, and 130 bikes were sold to people in need for less than $40.

Currently Earn-A-Bike is working to bring the program into schools four times a year. The next school to be given the opportunity to earn bikes is Bowden Elementary in SAISD. The school was recently granted a three-year sponsorship by a donor to be announced next week.

The YMCA of Greater San Antonio currently funds the program at Pershing Elementary.

Funds raised during the Pedal Party will go toward bringing the Earn-A-Bike program to P.F. Stewart Elementary, a school where there is a great need, according to Sandoval.

The program recently partnered with Summer Moon Coffee, which will donate the proceeds from sales of certain blends to Earn-A-Bike.

In addition to fundraising, Earn-A-Bike also accepts donations of bikes and bike parts at several locations throughout the city.

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