Christmas Fund: Young people learn social and cycling skills at Two Wheel View

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The impact of Two Wheel View is often felt on the last day of its Earn-a-Bike program.

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“Kids have told me that they feel like they have a sense of community here and that they belong to them,” said Laura Istead, Executive Director of Two Wheel View. “We have children who cry at the end of the programs because they are sad that the program is over and they know they will not be back next Tuesday.”

Two Wheel View was started in Minnesota in 2001 by Rick and Tanya McFerrin, then moved to Calgary in 2006 when the McFerrins moved here. He offers the Earn-a-Bike program, where kids learn basic bike repair, as well as emotional skills “that help them understand who they are and who their party members are”. The program is offered in local schools and libraries for youth in grades 7 to 12. At the end of the program, participants receive a refurbished bicycle of their choice, a lock and a helmet.

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“(The bicycle) is a universal tool,” says Istead. “It’s a common human memory… It’s a vehicle for adventure and it’s a vehicle for creating memories. We don’t always have this stuff. I think, especially in our world today, you go on an adventure with your phone, (which) doesn’t necessarily give you the same sense of adventure, autonomy and access that you do. ‘A bike.

Otis Lee McLellan, 12, joined an Earn-a-Bike program at the Calgary Public Library. “I was so impressed that the kids learned to work on bikes and were able to win a bike at the end of the program,” says Marcy, Otis’ mother. “You don’t really hear about these kinds of programs. They don’t really exist.

Otis has learned a lot of information about bike maintenance, including how to check tire inflation, fix tires, keep chains in line and more, he says. “Some of these skills that I learned will really come in handy in the future,” he says.

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But the program was also “focused on self-reflection, connecting with other people in the class,” he says. “Before working on our bikes, we used to talk to people about ourselves. “

Istead said they were working with young people on teamwork, empathy and identity and different basic skills. It then builds “self-confidence and self-efficacy and a wide variety of skills that build their resilience to help them overcome things that inevitably arise when you’re a teenager or in a new country.”

The Earn-a-Bike program is free. Two Wheel View’s programming costs are supplemented by a social enterprise bike shop it runs in Sunalta, near the CTrain station. “We want to make sure we keep it accessible and we work with young people who can really benefit from it,” Istead said. This includes recent immigrants. “We work with a lot of young people who come from another country and have had to give up their bikes,” she says. “Or they came to Canada and they just can’t afford to have a bike anymore because it’s not a priority for the family.

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“They now have a vehicle that can transport them from place to place, something that keeps them physically active and something that they know how to maintain,” Istead adds. “They have the skills to maintain it and the pride in owning it because they really worked hard to win their bike.”

Thanks to Earn-a-Bike and Full Cycle First Nations, which offers a combination of the Earn-a-Bike program and bike tours for Indigenous youth from Morley, Tsuut’ina and Eden Valley, Two Wheel View currently serves over 250 children. They hope to expand the program with the funds it receives from the Calgary Herald Christmas Fund 2018. “We currently have triple the demand we can service,” says Istead.

It means influencing more kids like Otis, who looked forward to class every week because the class leaders were “inspiring and motivating.”

“These types of organizations are just amazing,” says Marcy, Otis’ mother. “You don’t hear much about it, but it was so, so precious.”

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