By Leslie Rice Hart
Trips For Kids (TFK’s), is a non-profit organization that takes underprivileged kids on mountain bike outings. The idea is to provide outdoor and environmental education for the kids while showing them a great time. These adventures teach them how to be safe and responsible on a powerful vehicle while realizing their full potential.
Most of these kids are from homeless shelters or orphanages and have never been on a mountain bike before. The organization provides a course of basic skills to prepare the children for their ride. They offer a fun environment where the kids can be carefree and stress-free without worrying about where their next meal is coming from or where they are going to sleep.
Trips for Kids Metro New York 2005 Inaugural Ride with Big Brothers and Sisters at Bethpage State Park located in Nassau County, New York
Deneen Tromba, Executive Director/President of TFK’s explains why she became involved with the organization – “Cycling has always been a big part of my life. I can still remember, as a child, first learning how to ride a bike. To this day, whenever I am on my bike, I am instantly transported back in time to a place that has always provided me with a tremendous feeling of happiness. The first time I rode a mountain bike was 12 years ago in Oregon, on a trail that ran parallel to a river alongside the prettiest mountains I have ever seen. I was hooked. The freedom of being on two wheels combined with another great love of mine, the great outdoors. It’s pure heaven and it’s this same feeling and experience I would be honored to share with the children and volunteers of Trips for Kids. It is also my hope that through sharing these experiences with the children of Trips for Kids they too can find within themselves peace, happiness, and a greater appreciation and respect for the world around us. I too was an at-risk child/teenager and through all those many difficult times it was cycling that helped me deal with the most adverse of situations. Cycling always managed to put things into perspective. In addition, it has been my experience that when a child, no matter the age, has someone they can relate to, someone who shares and understands their struggles, they learn to trust. We, hopefully, can help in turning their lives around.” Deneen recruited Peter Walsh, now a director on the board of TFK’s because of his knowledge of the environment and his passion for mountain biking. He also has an extensive background in working with at-risk, underprivileged kids. Peter explains how the kids when they come are often shy and stand-offish. But as soon as they start riding, their barriers come tumbling down. “There are the boys who put on the tough-guy act and as soon as they get in the woods and see something like a caterpillar they shriek like a little girl” Peter laughingly describes. “This is all worthwhile when you see a child smile. It is those little moments when you know your making a difference in a kid’s life. Making connections with these kids is so rewarding.”
With mountain biking as the vehicle, the kids experience first hand the excitement of achievement, enabling them to realize their full potential. Peter says “The big thing for us is the need for volunteers to help out with the rides. I also think that it goes with out saying that we always need donations, be it cash, bikes, time, people who can help maintain our fleet of bikes, people who can help with the endless grant writing, etc.” For most of the children we deal with, it can be their first time in the woods, and, for some, this becomes one of the few times that they can just be kids.”