KBI Weekly Wrap Up – Last One – Round 6!

Here are Week 6’s highlights from Ms O. You can tell she is having a blast thanking her volunteers for the Kids Biking Initiative!

Monday: Our List of 100+ Volunteers
#KidsPedalingwithaPurposeVolunteersRock! continues. Week #6. Post #25.

Volunteers Do Rock!

Today’s post is a lot of photos. The best way to recognize, acknowledge and thank my Kids Pedaling with a Purpose Volunteers is to post photos that capture them in action!

Today is the day to do that!

My volunteer list is well over 100 folks. Awesome local (and some out of town!) people who love kids, love to bike and have graciously gifted us with their time, flexibility and patience.

As I mentioned in my post last Friday:

Being a volunteer means that you are offering something – something that is not required nor an obligation. Most of the time, to volunteer means that you are working side by side with others. This connects you to other human beings as you are working toward a common goal. When you volunteer, you are making connections.

The connections all of you have made is beyond words!

I have the best of both worlds with this program…working with kids and teaching with some amazing people.

My current contact list for volunteers is over 100. I have been scrolling through all of my photos and building a file of volunteer snapshots over the last week. There is no way I hit on everyone, but did the best I could. There are a lot of photos in this post. Most with names…some without. Scroll through and enjoy! If you see a photo missing a name (or names) and you now who it is, please send me a note. If you have a photo of a volunteer to add forward it to me as well.

If you know any of these folks and run into them this summer send them a smile, a thumbs up and an “I love biking!” greeting!


Tuesday: Our Funding Partners
As my #KidsPedalingwithaPurposeVolunteersRock! posts come to a close this week, it is very important to recognize where all of the funding for our program has come from. It truly is incredible how many local (and state!) groups and businesses have ‘stepped up to the plate’ to assist us in making this happen.

Today’s post is just a couple of photos and lots of logos. Do take a minute to scroll through and recognize all who have been a vital part of our success through their generous financial gifting.

This year marks the 4th year that our program has been up and running. We have used almost all of the funding we have received up to this point. This last winter we formed a ‘Program Sustainability Committee’ and have been meeting and discussing establishing the financial base necessary to keep our program going into the future.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog posting that highlighted John Hayes Harris III and his wife Diane, they have offered matching funds up to $25,000 for our mission. We are in the process of raising those necessary matching funds. If you love our trails in northern Michigan and would like to see more kids out actively using them, we would appreciate your support as we work toward raising the funding necessary to run our program next year and beyond.

As I mentioned above, my last #KidsPedalingwithaPurposeVolunteersRock! blogs will be this week. I will be officially signing off for the summer after tomorrow’s post.

In the meantime. Rest today. You and your bike. At least until the temperature drops this evening. It is going to be a scorcher!

Thursday: Top of Michigan Trails Council
My first #KidsPedalingwithaPurposeVolunteersRock! post was May 5th, the first week Emmet County 4th grade kids were scheduled to ride with us this year.

My last post (#27) is today.

If schools would have been in session this spring, we would have led 18 4th grade classes (over 380 kids) on all-day educational bike rides on our North Western State Trail over the last 6 weeks.

I have had the opportunity to write about so many incredibly giving people who have been a part of our pedaling journey. As I have mentioned a couple of different times, it has been a very therapeutic process for me to blog during these challenging times.

So, I close my #KidsPedalingwithaPurposeVolunteersRock! posts with a warm thank-you to the Top of Michigan Trails Council for their support and assistance in launching this program and facilitating its growth.

The mission of the Trails Council is to advocate for and facilitate the development and maintenance of a safe, multi-use, year-round recreational trail system in Northern Michigan; and to promote the maintenance and use of these trails for the benefit of all.

The Trails Council’s network currently is made up of over 300 miles of trails, stretching from Charlevoix to Alpena, and from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. And this network is continually growing. The Trails Council’s goal is to make Northern Michigan a destination for trail users from far and wide. They do indeed live up to their mission!

A year before I retired from teaching in Harbor Springs, I bumped into Jeff Winegard at the grocery store. In that conversation, Jeff shared with me that when I stepped out of teaching and had some time on my hands, he would love to have me involved in some capacity with the Trails Council. Little did he know that I would come back to him a couple years later with a crazy kids biking idea!

Jeff Winegard, recently retired from his position as TOMTC’s Executive Director, after serving for 10 years. During his tenure Jeff guided the development of new trails across Northern Michigan, the maintenance of existing trails and also was at the helm when the organization moved from a basement in downtown Petoskey to its current location – a historic home on M-119 which sits at the crossroads of the North Western State Trial and the Little Traverse Wheelway. Jeff shared that what he enjoyed most about his work with the Trails Council was the people.

“It’s the board, the donors and the local folks who use the trails that make this job so much fun. It attracts people who enjoy being outdoors and are committed to providing venues for everyone to get healthy.”

Jeff was all about launching an educational health promotion program for our local youth. It would not have happened without his support and I cannot thank him enough!

Jeff has been an assistant coach with Petoskey High School’s Track and Field and cross-country teams for the last several years, and he plans to continue working with those programs. Send a smile and a thank you when you see him out on the trails hiking and coaching our local kids.

When I stepped on board at the Trails Center in 2016, Sue Bouwense was the Assistant Director. The best way to describe Sue is ‘awesome’! She is quiet, kind and a get-things-done person.

I had written curriculums and lesson plans for many years, but never grants. During those first couple years building this program, many of the grants we received were not only written by Sue, but fine-tuned and tweaked by Sue. She made sure everything we were doing was posted on our website and was instrumental in making contacts with local civic groups for possible funding. And how many name tags for kids and volunteers did Sue print? I lost count.

Sue worked for the TOMTC for 3 and half years. She grew up and went to college in Grand Rapids (BA in Psychology) and moved to the Petoskey area in 1982. Sue and her husband Doug have been volunteers in Young Life for many years. When I asked her for a short summary of their work with this organization she wrote:

“Doug and I discovered Young Life of the former Soviet Union when we were looking for a long-term volunteer opportunity in 2014. In 2015 we served as volunteer coordinators at a Young Life camp that was being renovated in Armenia. After returning to Petoskey, we became involved in our local group: Little Traverse Bay Young Life and we serve on the committee that supports volunteers and staff that reaches out to kids in Charlevoix, Petoskey and Harbor Springs.”

Sue’s kind heart, writing skills and organizational mantra were all a huge part of our program’s success. Kids Pedaling with a Purpose would not have happened without her support and I cannot thank her enough!

Life is a journey. Journeys carry change. Change is good.

And good change has occurred at the Top of Michigan Trails Council.

Our new Executive Director, Brent Bolin stepped into his work with us this last winter. Brent comes from a long career in clean water advocacy, most recently as Regional Director with Clean Water Action, a national organization. His wife Danielle is a Northern Michigan Native and they are excited to be relocating and living in Petoskey. Away from the office Brent enjoys playing ice hockey and trying to keep up with his son David on hiking, biking and camping adventures.

Welcome Brent! I am looking forward to officially meeting you and having you pedal with a crew of 4th graders next spring!

It has been a pleasure getting to know our new Associate Director, Becca Nelson this last year. Becca has not only been filling her role as Associate Director these last few months, but she has really been keeping everything afloat during this transition time. Becca has been a good voice on our ‘Program Sustainability Committee’ and I very much look forward to working with her when we actually have pedaling groups out on the trails.

Becca is a Petoskey native who is excited to combine her love of the trails with the vitality of the area she is deeply rooted in. Becca loves to run and you will see her and her husband Trevor, and their dog Clara, out on our trails hiking, biking and running often!

As I officially sign off today from my ‘stay home stay safe’ blog posts, I must admit, I have grieved, processed and let go of not being out on the trails with the kids this spring.

These last few months will be logged in all of our memories for many years to come, and it is not over yet.

The health risks of COVID-19 continue and the unrest and public outcry of Black Lives Matter has exploded across our nation…and the world.

We are all challenged. We are all tested. And yes…we are all tired.

Thus, it is even MORE important now for us to keep ourselves healthy…physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. The healthier we are on all these levels, the more meaningful and purposeful each of us can be to ourselves and others.

And the healthier we are, the more we can give back.

That is what our world needs now. Caring souls who are healthy and willing to give.

27 blog posts later and over 100 healthy folks in our area loving our trails and loving kids.

That is grassroots strength. That is good.

So. I ride. On our beautiful trails that wind along the water’s edge, into beautiful forests, across open clear fields and through our quaint little northern Michigan towns.

I ride so I am healthy and strong.

Please continue to do the same so our youth will do the same.

They are our next generation of heathy strong people.