BRO: How did the idea for Trips for Kids originate?
MP: I was a mother and a housewife who loved biking throughout my life. One day I was riding and enjoying the views from the mountains, and I just started thinking about how wonderful it would be to bring the kids from the city up to experience the beauty.
BRO: How did the program become so widespread?
MP: I started working on it in 1986, and it took a couple years to get off the ground. But soon it felt like we tossed out a pebble and the ripple just spread. People started coming to us interested in starting their own programs. We went national in 1999, and now we’re adding about 10 new chapters a year.
BRO: How do you find kids take to mountain biking?
MP: It’s simple, but it’s universal. Kids love bikes. You pair a child with a bicycle and soon you see smiles that you haven’t seen in a long time. When many of the kids arrive at the trailhead, they are very reluctant. They have these discouraged looks on their faces, but after 20 minutes of riding, that all melts away. Biking in nature breaks barriers and provides feelings of confidence, independence, and responsibility.
BRO: What else do you want the program to provide for kids?
MP: I look at it through several dimensions. One is definitely providing fun for kids who would not otherwise be able to do this. It’s also about self-development and gaining confidence, teaching kids they can accomplish something if they stick with it. I also want to teach kids about taking care of themselves and the environment they are enjoying on the bikes.
BRO: Since the program continues to grow, do you have a long-term vision?
MP: I look at the Boys and Girls Club—how large it is and how it is affecting so many kids. I hope that we will be that size of an organization someday, but still based on bicycling. To affect that many children is my goal.
Trips for Kids in the South
One of the first offshoots of the original Trips for Kids was the Charlotte, N.C., chapter, which has become one of the most successful in the country. The program takes inner city kids mountain biking every Saturday at Colonel Francis Beatty Park in Matthews and Fisher Farm in Davidson. Bike trailers at the parks have a fleet of mountain bikes ready for kids to tackle the beginner-friendly rides. The organization also owns the Re-Cyclery, a volunteer-based, nonprofit used bike shop in downtown that fixes and resells donated used bikes to help fund the program. The shop has been regularly selling 10 to 15 bikes a week. Additional Trips for Kids chapters are in D.C., Durham, N.C., and New River, W.Va. Find a local chapter: tripsforkids.org.