by Jennifer Charrette
Our son Axel was born to bike.
As an infant, he spent hours watching the world go by inside a bike trailer. As a toddler, the moment he laid eyes on a balance bike he walked next to it, then walked with it, then eventually began scooting all over the place. It was beautiful, that little bike, and Axel rode it everywhere. It became an extension of him, and was his joy.
Axel was killed on February 28, 2013. Through a veil of grief, my husband and I searched for goodness as we remembered our youngest child, and we found it, through bikes. Axel plus bikes equaled joy, so we created a non-profit organization; for him, for us, and for other kids.
Founded in May 2013, the Axel Project is dedicated to a fundamental principle that productive, happy lives can begin with bikes. Our mission introduces and nurtures a lifelong passion for cycling with children and their families. The Axel Project focuses on kids 18 months to five years, because that is where Axel was in his ?biking journey? when taken from us. This age range is also an untapped opportunity to introduce bicycles and healthy habits to kids before behaviors and lifestyles are shaped and filled with other activities not sharing the same benefits.
In just 18 months, the Axel Project has donated more than 200 Strider?balance bikes to families, early learning centers, daycares, schools, and BMX tracks. It has also shared the joy of biking to thousands of children at events across the country through the Axel Project/Strider Bikes Adventure Zone.
Feedback is supportive and encouraging. Parents, teachers, and even community members with grown children love to see kids active and happy, doing something so positive.
Grandmother Gay Leachman?was tearful after purchasing two Strider bikes from the Axel Project for her grandchildren.
?These guys are doing a great thing, and I wish my kids had that at school when they were (students). What an inspiration.?
A new project, RideTime, is aimed at a pre-K and kindergarten population and provides bicycles, gear, instruction, and educational materials for schools to integrate riding and exercise into a daily curriculum or after school program. It is our belief that instilling basic skills at early age will encourage kids to ride on two wheels with friends and family, into adulthood and beyond. Jefferson County, Colorado HeadStart?teacher Michelle Kalkwarf said, ?We have a high percentage of obese toddlers. These balance bikes will help get them interested in physical activities.?
Then, of course, there?s the kids. Enjoyment is measured by enormous grins as youngsters zoom around a course, pure joy evident in their faces as bodies move freely. They run with wheels under them or cautiously explore the new experience of striding along.
After spending 20 minutes of his pre-school day riding bikes with the Axel Project, Ryder Hines was the picture of enthusiasm when his mother picked him up.
?Mom I rode bikes at school today!?
Play is good. Joy is ageless. The Axel Project seeks to combine both, for a lifetime.
How to help: The Axel Project has a goal of providing Strider bikes for children around the United States.
Purchase?a Strider Bike, Axel Project gear, or the children?s book Zoom! from our web shop.
Donate. Any amount helps
Involve kids. Host an ?Axel Project? birthday party, giving contributions instead of gifts. Lemonade stands/bake sales. What could be sweeter than using baking skills to put a smile on a child?s face?
Share the love.?Visit the Axel Project Facebook and Twitter accounts, read more on the organization?s website, and join the conversation with?#axelove?and #borntobike.
Involve your school. The Axel Project is in search of teacher and staff ambassadors interested in the mission, vision, and goals of the Axel Project.
Jennifer Charrette is the roadschooling mom of two boys and publisher of Pedal Adventures, a blog dedicated to lifelong learning and adventures, with bikes and without.
Postscript: The Charrette family’s Axel Project program is one of several ways bike manufacturers are spreading the love of bicycling among children around the world. This month, Outdoor Families Magazine will be focusing on another company, Woom Bikes USA, that offers a unique “upcycling” rebate to parents looking for a “shop-up” opportunity for growing kids. Learn, grow, and go! Read more about Woom Bikes USA and the Upcycle System, here.?
~Erin Kirkland, editor?