Creating a Swell Community
September 20 2016, 2:10 pm
by Wes Sovis
Off the Couch and on the Bike
One of the best parts of working at Swell Development is the opportunity to give back to the community. We're very lucky to have very flexible hours to take part in things going on in our home towns. This fall, I'm using my Monday afternoons to volunteer with El Norte's Bike Mas project at Eastern Elementary. The program is open to fifth graders who want to learn how to ride bicycles safely to and from school, as well as how to find the best routes to the parks and playgrounds in Traverse City.
With the proliferation of video games, TV, social media and other indoor activities, El Norte wants to show kids how much fun it is to be outside, to be active, and get to know how to safely navigate their neighborhoods on bicycles. One mantra of the group is "less screen time, more bike time" because healthy, active kids learn better and live happier lives. It's impossible not to imagine the same is true for all of us, especially web developers!
Monday was the first BIke Mas gathering and I got to meet the kids for the first time. They were so excited to get outside and hit the trails! Before we went outside, we discussed proper hand signals and the importance of communicating to each other and to pedestrians while we ride. We, of course, made time for a quick snack before setting off on our adventure. After making sure everyone's brakes worked, their seats were the right height, and we knew how to execute power starts without wobbling, we made for the trail through the NMC campus towards the Civic Center.
The kids just have to ride up by me, who was leading the bike train. Laura Otwell, a Norte volunteer and one of the nicest people you'll ever meet, took up the caboose to make sure we didn't lose any youths during our short ride over to the Civic Center. We practiced calling out and gesturing "RIGHT TURN!" with each change in direction, with our enthusiasm sometimes being such that people several miles away were unintentionally informed of our movements.
We did a few laps of the Civic Center track before finding a steep hill to roll down like pencils, before a running race down the hill ensued, and then each kid decided they could handle going down the incline on their bicycles. Even the least experienced kid decided he could handle the formidable challenge. It was such a rewarding sight to see their faces light up as they made it down the hill, having overcome their fear. With their self-confidence beaming, we made a B-line for home to make sure we didn't keep our parents waiting at the school.
It Takes a Village
I'm learning so much from the kids and I'm already looking forward to next Monday to go for a ride with the kids. It's a treat to be able to share the joy of cycling with kids who may not have been exposed to bicycles if the project wasn't offered. To see kids outside, being active, and gaining self-confidence is an incredibly rewarding and powerful experience, and I'm very lucky to work for a company that believes in letting us have an opportunity to volunteer with organizations who are working so hard to make our communities a better place.
If you want to learn more about Norte, head on over to their website. Be sure to Like them on Facebook and follow the fun on Instagram to see if your kid is interested in learning how to tear up the trails and tarmac in Traverse City!