When Father Gorman Community School began recruiting for its 10-student bike club, it did so under two strict criteria.
“The first thing was, we asked them if they owned a bike. If they owned a bike, then we chose a different student,” explained Charmaine Roberts, community school facilitator for Father Gorman and the Lloydminster Catholic School Division (LCSD). “The second question was, can you ride a bike?”
On Monday, the 10 young cyclists, who weeks ago had minimal to zero biking experience and didn’t own a two-wheeler, found out they’d be keeping their club bicycles - permanently.
“It’s surprising,” said Grade 4 student Godwin Javier, who was still smiling a half-hour after he found out about the bicycle. “I just like riding bikes.”
Father Gorman began the Bike It Up program earlier this year after the LCSD’s community education coordinator, Alison Fulkerth, applied for funding from Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program. Jumpstart awards grants for programs that support kids and promote physical activity.
Upon obtaining the equipment, a group of Father Gorman staff that included the principal, vice-principal, community school counsellor and Aboriginal liaison worker, sought 10 new cyclists for the program.
“We thought this would be a great idea to give kids a chance in our school to utilize a bike,” said Roberts. “Learn how to ride a bike, learn about bike safety, how to wear their helmet properly, learning the hands signs when you’re riding your bicycle and just a great opportunity for them to be with some friends.”
For the past several weeks, Father Gorman’s bike club has met after school on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:10 to 4:30 p.m. and ridden along bike paths in the neighbourhood.
It wasn’t always easy, though. None of the bike club’s members had much, if any, experience riding, which meant they had to learn from scratch.
“It was hard for them because there was a lot of falling down, but they were very persistent and they never gave up,” Roberts said. “And actually, I don’t think I saw any tears,” she added with a laugh.
Roberts says she’s hopeful that Bike It Up will continue next year, but isn’t sure how its format may change, given Father Gorman’s funding situation. Regardless, the bike club has been a memorable experience for everyone involved, she says.
“Thank you to Canadian Tire Jumpstart for providing the bicycles and the helmets and for giving our children the opportunity to experience what it’s like to ride a bike.”