Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tulsa Tough Kids Challenge

This is from Gary Parker, one of the LCIs who participated in each of the Tough Kids Challenge events and taught at yesterday's Skills and Drills Clinic. I was there too, and my post follows......Ed

Dear TaoBIKE Team,

Thank you for your wonderful effort on behalf of the kids participating in today's Tulsa Tough Kids Skills and Drills.

Brian Potter took the lead. The agenda arrived at earlier was very efficient. Four groups of about 20-plus kids moved through the activities quite efficiently. This was due in great part to teacher/coaches Richard Hall, Ren Barger, and Ed Wagner.

Ed's son Jordan participated providing examples of the skills assignments. Several of the Tulsa Bike Patrol were also on hand. Adam was there from the outset with some shop mechanics.
The sequence of events went very smoothly with greater skill for delivery of services being acquired with each successive group.

A special shout-out "Thank you!" to Brian joining me for my bike ride back to the River's Edge at 21st and Riverside.

From the three sessions of helmet fitting through riding in a straight line, stopping-starting and turn signaling, and a big finish with two by two riding of the entire group around the warehouse as they monitored their spacing and speed.

What a great day for Tulsa kids and Tulsa bicycling.

My appreciation to all of the folks that made today's Tulsa Tough Kids bike event such a wonderful happening.

Gary Parker

Jordan and I left early on Saturday morning for the Skills and Drills Clinic. The Tulsa Tough is giving away 300 Trek bicycles to local kids this year. We helped to assemble them and we participated in the classroom portions at several local schools. Jordan was especially valuable because as a teenager, he's closer to the elementary kids ages, and he's more approachable than an adult. I think he enjoyed the attention too.

The LCI cadre did an amalgam of Kids 1 and 2. We held the clinic in a warehouse this year, the same warehouse that we'd used for bike assembly. It offered some advantages since we didn't have to be concerned about the weather. But the floor was smooth finished concrete, so we had to adapt the drills for the reduced traction. Instant turns were out, as well as the rock dodge. That proved to be a good call because some of the kids showed poor bike handling skills on the serpentine course, and naturally, some were overly aggressive. Fortunately, no one fell and we didn't have any collisions.

The first group was a the largest with about 75 kids. It was important to stay on message and keep track of time. Brian had allotted 15 minutes for each section, along with a 5 minute break at the mid-point. It was a challenge to keep the kids focused and get all of them through each drill several times so they could develop some proficiency. I talked with one parent and described it as “trying to herd cats.” For the most part, the kids were focused and attentive.

The Tulsa Police Department sent 5 officers from their bike patrol unit. These folks were wonderful! They helped with helmet fittings, stopping drills, and even acted as pedestrians at one point. I'm not sure if the kids paid more attention to the instructors or the guys in uniform, but there's no doubt in my mind that the police officers were very effective in a bicycling education role. (We talked briefly about the IPMBA and LAB's Road1, but that's a subject for another time.)

There were some heartbreakers too. One boy was worried because his mother wasn't there. “She never comes to anything with me,” he said. I could hear the hurt in his voice. One girl had broken her arm the previous weekend and was in a hand-to-shoulder cast. She very gamely wanted to participate, but we were worried that she wouldn't be able to control her bike and she could fall, re-injuring the arm. I had to tell her she was excused from the class. She had tears welling up in her eyes. At least she has a new bike even if she can't ride it yet.

We had a few kids with learning problems. They required more one-on-one instruction, and we worked with them as we could. But we had two kids who didn't know how to ride a bike at all. The parents were told at the classroom sessions that we did not have the time or staffing to teach beginners, yet they signed up to get that free bike anyway. Some parents gamed the system too. They arrived at the warehouse, received their helmets and bikes, and then disappeared as soon as possible. Perhaps they saw little value in the instruction, but in a perverse way it benefited the kids who stayed because we could spend more time with them individually.

Finally, a word about the volunteers. The LCI group didn't do this alone. The Tulsa Tough operates with a network of volunteers, people who donated their time to unload trucks, assemble bikes, handle administrative chores, and even take out the trash. It truly is a team effort because none of us could accomplish our tasks without the others. A well deserved thank you goes to St. Francis Hospital, the Tulsa Crime Commission, Adam Vanderburg (owner of Lee's Bicycles), and the hundreds of people who worked together to bring this event to area kids.

And we get to do it again next week!

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