OK, upfront, this is a solicitation. My apologies. But if you have followed me and enjoyed reading about my cross-country bicycle trip, I want to ask you to consider making a donation to support a non-profit organization I deeply care about – one that brings the thrill of bicycling and personal achievement to lower income kids: I Challenge Myself. You can make a donation by clicking the link above or by going directly to their website, at www.IChallengeMyself.org, and clicking the “donate now” link.
To date, each of my blog posts has garnered around 300 views (and some as many as 600). So, if each reader were to give even a little, say $25, it would make a very meaningful contribution to ICM’s programs. And, of course, larger donations are always welcome as well!
What? You want a little more background on ICM? OK, not an unreasonable request, I can do that.
As indicated on my blog home page (http://biking.rschwed.com), I’ve been the Board Chair of ICM since it was founded in 2005 by Ana Reyes (who still serves as ICM’s Executive Director). In a nutshell, ICM helps public high school students in the Bronx, Washington Heights and Harlem develop confidence and self-esteem, as well as leadership and workplace skills, through endurance cycling training and rides, culminating in a Century (i.e., 100 mile) Bike Ride each Spring. Typically, our program takes in students with little or no prior cycling experience and provides them with both the equipment and training to become accomplished riders. We integrate our curriculum with each school’s physical education program, in after-school sessions three to four times a week, and, when weather permits, include additional, longer, training rides on weekends (often in City neighborhoods the students have never visited).
What we have seen over the years is that setting up a challenge of this size (a 100 mile bike ride), and then giving kids the tools and support actually to accomplish it, pays tremendous dividends in terms of their health, confidence and desire to achieve more in their education and other aspects of their lives.
In July 2011, we expanded our curriculum, to include an emphasis on college preparedness and career journeys, by piloting a multi-day overnight summer bike tour program of five colleges in Upstate New York. Each visit included a guided campus tour and meetings with financial aid and admissions counselors. The positive feedback was tremendous, with all of the participants ending up enrolling in colleges, including NYU and Skidmore.
But we’re constantly struggling for enough funds to keep our programs afloat (and, indeed, were not able to offer the college bike tour program in 2012), and, in truth, it’s only through the extraordinary dedication of our Executive Director that we’ve survived and continued to make an impact.
Along my cross-country ride, people often asked me whether I was riding for a charity. I usually hedged my reply. In truth, undertaking the ride was more about fulfilling a long-time dream and my own effort, in middle age, to set my own personal challenge and accomplish it. But I always hoped, also, to be able to raise money for ICM as part of the process. I believe ICM’s mission is a really valuable and important one, and one that deserves broader support. Completing my own endurance ride has confirmed for me, yet again, that it is a very worthy goal to introduce the joys of long-distance biking – a great tool for exercise and self-discovery – to those who have never been afforded the exposure or opportunity.
Thanks in advance for whatever you can do to help.