KBI Weekly Wrap Up – Round 3!

Here are Week 3’s highlights from Ms O. You can tell she is having a blast thanking her volunteers for the Kids Biking Initiative!

Monday: John Harris
In May of 2019 I met John Hayes Harris III, M.Ed.

Within moments our conversation took off.

I learned that we had finished our undergraduate degrees around the same time, in the same area of study – Heath Fitnesses Programming and Exercise Physiology – him at GVSU and me at CMU. John launched into corporate fitness and I turned toward education.

I learned that John was friends with Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones – which I had just finished reading after visiting Ralph Tramontini (a friend and former teacher/coach at PHS) in Hojancha, Costa Rica that winter. The Nicoya Peninsula, where Ralph lives year-round now, is one of Buettner’s 6 Blue Zones on our planet. The Blue Zone is a fascinating read about 6 areas where people tend to live longer (100+ years) healthier lives.

I learned that John has years of experience launching health fitness programs in our country and around the world and he brings great vision to the table as he serves on our Program Sustainability Committee.

And last but not least, I learned that John loves to bike – competitively as you will see in a couple of the attached photos – and also loves kids!

This is a little longer read today, but a fitting post for a rainy Monday as we kick off the 3rd week of our #KidsPedalingwithaPurposeVolunteersRock! series.

A little bit of John’s background and journey in life:

John Harris is a retired entrepreneur and philanthropist, currently serving on multiple for-profit and not-for-profit boards. Considered a wellness pioneer, John was the co-founder of Harris HealthTrends, Inc., an entrepreneurial corporation that became one of the top five corporate wellness companies in the world and helped shape the prevention industry into what it is today.

Harris HealthTrends grew to nearly 400 employees, had clients in all 50 states, and in six countries, on three continents. It ultimately became part of Axia Health Management which was sold in 2006.

John was later a founding partner of Performance pH, a company that leveraged a variety of strategies to create high-performing cultures. Performance pH was sold in 2018.

John received a Bachelor of Science degree from Grand Valley State University in 1977, and a Master’s in Education degree from The University of Toledo, in 1982. He presents internationally, and is the author of many publications on employee health and has been awarded numerous prestigious industry and entrepreneurial excellence awards.

John’s personal athletic and fitness journey’s are equally impressive. He was a two-time All American collegiate wrestler and Olympic Trials qualifier. To stay fit as an adult, John has become an accomplished mountain bike racer who has completed the Leadville 100, viewed as the most difficult distance mountain bike race in North America. He also is a cross country ski racer having competed in some of the most prestigious 50 Kilometer races in North America, including the American Birkebeiner and the Tour de Anchorage.

John and his wife Diane now reside in our corner of northern Michigan and continue to commit their lives and professions to the health and wellness of their communities.

As key supporters of our Kids Pedaling with a Purpose Program, they have offered matching funds up to $25,000 for our mission. This is a powerful lever to achieve a sustainable future for our program, and we can not thank John and Diane enough for their support.

Happy rainy day Monday everyone. Matt and I are headed up to the UP (partly sunny day up there!) to hike along Lake Superior.

Tuesday: Christian Janssens and Amy Dye Janssens
Our Kids Pedaling with a Purpose program would not have launched as successfully as it has without two very special people in our community.

Christian Janssens and Amy Dye Janssens are the co-owners of Latitude 45, avid bike riders, amazing parents and forward thinking leaders…on so many levels.

In the summer of 2016, I created my first lesson plans for three half-day educational bike rides for kids 7-12 years old. I had never taught ‘bike safety’ so I called Christian. I had heard about the bike safety lessons he was teaching at our local elementary schools each spring. Christian came to the Trails Center that summer and taught a short class on trail safety and etiquette before we took off on those first summer rides.

That next year, when I launched the first year of our Kids Pedaling with a Purpose program, Christian was all about it! He joined me visiting every elementary school in Emmet County (and later Charlevoix) to speak in each classroom about biking safety, and spent countless hours in each gym fitting kids to the proper size bike and testing their bike riding abilities. Each April Christian revisited schools with me to work with kids who were struggling riders and then in May he (or someone on his staff) was at Spring Lake Park teaching again about trail safety, etiquette and riding with a group. He has taught these bike safety skills to more than 1,000 kids in our area. I told him numerous times that I could not have done it without him. So one more time Christian Janssens “I could not have done it with out you!”

Christian is awesome and I was so very fortunate to have him by my side these last 3 years. What ranks just as high, is his wife Amy Dye Janssens stepping on board with us as well! Christian and Amy have 4 kids, so I didn’t see a lot of Amy our first year. But, she stepped in big-time our second year, as you will see in today’s photos. It was awesome to work with Amy in 2018, and I must admit that I missed her last year…but for good reason.

Amy is a Certified Mindfulness Instructor and has launched an amazing program right here in Petoskey fostering tools for self-care, self-regulation, and self-compassion to schools, businesses, individuals and families. Amy’s experience co-owning Latitude 45 Bicycles and Fitness, teaching 2nd – 5th graders, and teaching mindfulness to students, educators, and parents has allowed her to develop strong leadership skills, outstanding multitasking and interpersonal skills, and a deep knowledge of the importance of inner connection.

Amy has also planned and facilitated events to encourage connection and healthy lifestyle choices through the bike shop, within the schools, and in connection with community organizations. She is the co-founder and designer of a youth mountain biking program, Outside 45, which integrates mountain biking, mindfulness and cooperative games in grades 6-8 to foster a growth mindset.

One of my favorite leadership quotes is:

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Christian Janssens and Amy Dye Janssens you inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more. You are both true leaders.

Wednesday: Joe Graham and Emily Hughes
When I was writing my #KidsPedalingwithaPurposeVolunteersRock! post yesterday about Christian Janssens and Amy Dye Janssens, I found myself thinking more about those early program building days.

In the classroom, the key to successfully teaching is making sure your lesson plans are detailed, purposeful, creative and keep kids actively engaged (along with meeting state standards of course!).

Joe Graham was a big part of this piece. His outdoor education experience and insight offered great guidance and direction as the lesson plans for our program were being written.

Joe Graham’s love of biking is woven into so much of his life. Joe currently works for Latitude 45 filling a variety of small business roles, but his love of biking (and kids!) branches out in so many different directions from there.

Joe, a native of Charlevoix, led outdoor mountain biking adventures for youth out east and has created Outside 45, a junior biking program with co-owner of Latitude 45 Amy Dye Janssens, which offers educational mountain bike programs to area teens. He is also the owner/builder of Graham Cycles (based out of New Hampshire) and builds custom designed bikes right here in our area. And last, but not least, Joe was a big part of the development (curriculum discussion, lesson plan writing and early teaching) of our Kids Pedaling with a Purpose Program.

The following quote from Joe (in an article run by the NR in the summer of 2018) captures the spirit and insight he has contributed to our program:

“I’m a big believer that the outdoor classroom is the best classroom,” Graham said. “You put the kids in the right space and take away the distractions, they’re going to build some of those skills that will hopefully help them when they’re navigating through our mainstream American society.”

When Joe Graham was leading teenage youth on back-country mountain biking trips out east, he met Emily Hughes. Emily worked for Kroka Expeditions, a nonprofit wilderness school as their Outreach Director for 3 years. Joe and Emily have since moved back to our corner of northern Michigan to live, work, raise their kids (2 little ones now!) and continue to give back to our community.

Emily’s love of the outdoors began at a young age during camping, hiking, and canoeing trips, many of which were in the Adirondacks, just a couple of hours from her hometown. She is a National Outdoor Leadership School alumni and certified Wilderness First Responder.

Emily Hughes now works for the Little Traverse Conservancy as their Membership Coordinator, and the first year of our program met us on the trail to lead the 4th grade biking classes on LTC’s Nature Trails adjacent to the North Western State Trail. Emily loves cycling (as much as her husband Joe does!) and has said she would choose a bike over a car any day!

As I mentioned above, Joe and Emily have two kids now and are very busy parents. Keep your eyes open for them on our biking trails with their kids in tow – probably in very creative carriers that have been designed and built by Joe!

70F and sunny the next 3 days! It is about time!

Bike + Ride + Our Trails = Nothing Better!

Thursday: Little Traverse Conservancy
Each 4th grade class started their all-day educational bike ride with us at Spring Lake Park. They were split into 4 groups and rotated through 4 different teaching stations.

I have written about 3 of these stations in my #KidsPedalingwithaPurposeVolunteersRock! posts thus far, and want to recognize the Little Traverse Conservancy and the educational nature hikes they have led at the park for us.

The mission of our Kids Pedaling with a Purpose program is based on the following 3 objectives:

1. Biking is a great form of exercise that you can do throughout your life.
2. We live in a beautiful corner of northern Michigan, much of which you can see and appreciate by riding a bike.
3. Riding a bike is fun and it is important for our health and well-being to do things in our daily lives that we enjoy.

A nature hike led by the Little Traverse Conservancy at Spring Lake Park, was a perfect outdoor classroom activity aligned to our 2nd objective listed above.

When I contacted the LTC for teaching materials and ideas, they provided me with that…and even more. The first two years of our program, they scheduled people on their staff and their volunteers, to lead small groups of 4th graders on a nature hike at Spring Lake Park before we embarked on our bike ride north.

The gifting of their time and expertise in nature added a deeper level of learning to our program. The kids got to experience riding a bike on our beautiful trails, along with one of the many beautiful spots in our area they can stop and explore.

The wetlands at Spring Lake Park are teaming with new growth and activity in May. The kids were taught what a watershed is and why the wetlands are such an important part of our ecosystem.

Through the seasons, the Little Traverse Conservancy offers numerous different educational outings for kids, at no charge. A few examples of these classes are listed below:

To Be a Tree
Fun with Food Chains
Spring Sprouts
Life in the Water

For more than 30 years, these programs have been integrated into school curriculums and used to complement the work that is happening in the classroom. The conservancy also offers educational nature outings for kids throughout the summer. Explore their website www.landtrust.org to learn more about their mission and all they do for our area.

I have gone through my photo files and am posting pictures of LTC’s crew doing what they love with our 4th Grade kids.

A special thanks to Emily Hughes – LTC Membership Coordinator, Anne Fleming – LTC Director of Communications, Doug Fuller – former LTC Director of Stewardship, Sarah Mayhew – LTC Director of Education, Mary Trout – LTC Volunteer Bird Watching Tour Guide, and other LTC connected folks for your time, leadership and love of the outdoors and kids!

Friday: Eric Hemenway
Kids Pedaling with a Purpose was created to get kids out on our trails, riding a bike and appreciating the beautiful area in which we live.

They were also in school that day…so we had a lot of subject material to cover as well!

When we pedaled out of Spring Lake Park on the North Western State Trail north toward the Oden Fish Hatchery, most of the kids, and adults as well, had no idea that they would be stopping just up the trail for their social studies class.

Waiting for us at that site was a well-respected local storyteller, Eric Hemenway.

Eric Hemenway is an Anishnaabe/Odawa from Cross Village, Michigan. He is the Director of Repatriation, Archives and Records for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indian, a federally recognized tribe in northern Michigan. Eric works to collect and preserve historical information for LTBB Odawa.

Over the last 3 years, Eric has met us at the Hiawatha Pageant Historical site on Round Lake to share a piece of Odawa history that so many of us were unaware of.

In the early 1900s, the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railway produced pageants on Round Lake near Petoskey. Local Native American actors starred in the plays that dramatized Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Song of Hiawatha”.

“It was billed as the number one attraction from 1905 to 1915. People who came to see it would say it was as good as any Broadway show of its time,” said Ima Williams, chair of the Hiawatha Pageant Historical Marker Committee.

The grandstand located near the historical marker could hold an audience of about 2,500, Williams said. The railroad company even built a landing area for the “dummy” trains from Petoskey to allow audiences to attend the two daily performances.

Former chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and executive director of the United Tribes of Michigan, Frank Ettawageshik, said the poem is based on the stories passed down among native storytellers.

“It’s a story from the lakes and the hills and the forests, with whom we still live. The lessons that were conveyed through these stories, finding balance with nature, to live in harmony and balance. Those elements of our culture come through these works. The power of those stories not only touched us, but others to use those same lessons for generations,” Ettawageshik said.

Eric Hemenway shared the history of the site as outlined above, but he also shared with the kids how important it is to hear what Natives’ lives were like then. He asked the kids to imagine what it would have been like to have things that were so much a part of who they were taken away, explaining that forced assimilation, losing land, losing resources, and losing identity were also a part of the Hiawatha Pageant story.

Eric Hemenway is an amazing storyteller and it was an honor to have him share a piece of Native history with us. Eric was also a student of mine in Harbor Springs, which made it even more special working with him these last few years!

If you are out riding on the North Western State Trail, make sure you stop and read about the Hiawatha Pageants and try to imagine what it was like in the early 1900s for our Native people.

KidsPedalingwithaPurposeVolunteersRock! signs off for our upcoming long weekend.

If you have missed any of my posts, Becca has been re-posting each week’s reviews every Friday on our Top of Michigan Trails Blog. Visit www.trailscouncil.org and click on News and Events and then scroll down to Trails Blog if you want to catch up on all of the wonderful folks in our area who have given ‘above and beyond’ to our program.