Verde Valley Bikes for Kids is creating mountain bike clubs in Verde Valley elementary schools.
They started in the West Sedona School a year ago, but expanded the program Thursday by donating 28 brand-new Trek mountain bikes to four other Verde Valley schools, according to Rich Leever of Bikes for Kids.
On Thursday, Leever, Kevin Adams, who helped raise the funding for the bikes, and other volunteers loaded bikes headed to Dr. Daniel Bright School, Cottonwood Community School, Beaver Creek School and Oak Creek School.
“The concept is the school has to find a coach, or we will help them find a coach, but they have to be interested in providing the kids with time and opportunity to learn how to ride a mountain bike,” Leever said. The program is open to all schools in the Verde Valley.
Leever spoke at the Verde Valley Bicycle Co. on Thursday where the 28 bikes were purchased “at cost” and assembled by staff for free. He said it would have been difficult to do the project without the help from Verde Valley Bicycle Co., owner Bill Jackson.
“Bill was the only (bike shop) that showed any interest in partnering with us,” Leever said. “We buy bikes from him at cost… and it allows us to buy more bikes for kids.”
The Verde Valley Bicycle Co., located in Cottonwood, will also maintain and repair the schools’ bikes for life, according to manager Randy Young.
Leever and Adams also sit on the board of the Verde Valley Cycling Coalition, which does fundraising for Bikes for Kids.
“My goal is to put a mountain bike club in every elementary school in the Verde Valley,” Leever said.
The program is for fourth, fifth and sixth-graders, said Young, but the bikes will fit kids from third to seventh grade.
“Biking is good for kids,” Leever said. “And the reality in the area is that many kids don’t have mountain bikes.”
The charity has two parts. One is to provide new bikes to deserving children once a year; and the second is to make sure kids at least have access to a mountain bike through this program, he said. Bikes for Kids gives about 25 to 30 new mountain bikes to elementary school students in the Verde Valley once a year.
The funding for the bikes was raised through grants, fundraising, individual donations, knocking on doors and the program qualifies for the Arizona charitable tax credit, Adams said.
Leever said Bike for Kids is always looking for donations and volunteers if anyone is interested go to the at https://www.vvcc.us/ or verdevalleybikesforkids.org
The schools will run the program and decide how many times the clubs will go out on the seven mountain bikes at each school, Young said. The VVBC is providing coaches to help out. The VVCC and the Kids for Bikes paid for the bikes, but Trek did run a discount price on the bikes as well, he said.
“Rich Leever of the Verde Valley Bicyclist Coalition is the one who spearheaded the program,” Young said.
The mountain bikes and the club are at no cost to the schools, Young said. The bikes are even maintained throughout the year by his Bicycle Co.
West Sedona School was the first school involved, and they already had a club, Leeves said. They needed four new mountain bikes to add to their own bikes which were not in good shape.
“The instructors that run the after-school programs will be focusing on safety, a little on bike maintenance, awareness on how good it is to be outdoors and outdoor activities.” Students will be learning mountain biking focusing on those skills.
“Our owner Bill Jackson is very big on community involvement,” Young pointed out at the Cottonwood bike shop on Thursday. “Rich Leever of the Verde Valley Bicyclist Coalition is the spirit. He’s the one who came up it.”