There are so many things to do at sprawling Shelby Farms Park in Memphis that first-time visitors might have a hard time knowing where to start.
For more than 8,000 kids, a staple of American childhood — a bicycle — was their reason for going to the park.The Bike Recycle Program matches eager kids with machines that need a rider.
There’s a lot more to it than that, though, according to Natalie Wilson, senior manager of events and programs for Shelby Farms Park.
Kids who participate in the program get weeks of hands-on training with their new bikes.
Each one learns how to obey the rules of the road, safely operate their bike and keep it in good working order.
In short, they learn everything they need to have a long, safe, happy relationship with a new ride.
“For almost 10 years, Shelby Farms Park, in partnership with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, has helped to bring underprivileged youth of Memphis the opportunity to learn about how to be safe bikers,” says Wilson.
“That means not only receiving a bike, but learning about how to be a responsible cyclist, the importance of health and wellness and how biking and connecting into our community can truly impact our lives, from education to their family dynamic.”
Many of the bicycles used in the Bike Recycle Program are used ones that have been donated and refurbished, though people also donate new machines as well.
Wilson said the program has been so successful, many graduates have later donated bikes and their time to benefit new kids coming through.
Once the kids enrolled in the program have earned their wheels, they can enjoy riding in their neighborhoods, just like generations before them.