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West Valley City Journal

Scheels funds learn-to-ride bike program for students at Academy Park Elementary

May 06, 2024 11:02AM ● By Zachary Smith

George Hagan (left) and Cherie Oliver (right) helping students prepare for their first ride. (Zachary Smith/City Journals)

On March 29, kindergarten students at Academy Park Elementary were brought into the school gym for a special assembly just for them. The first thing they saw upon entering was a colorful parachute in the middle of the room, covering something that seemed to be a secret. They were asked to raise their hands if they knew how to ride a bike. Some did, others did not. 

They were then asked to raise their hands if they knew what was under the parachute. Most of them did. Yet still, when the parachute was lifted on the count of three, the young crowd roared with glee and surprise as if they had just opened a present on Christmas.

The school unveiled 24 kindergarten-sized Strider balance-to-pedal conversion bicycles and their corresponding gear, and announced that the bikes were now school gym equipment. Head coach Glenn Leich explained that the bikes would be integrated into the kindergarten physical education program and that the whole kindergarten would be taught how to ride them as part of the class. 

This is possible thanks to the All Kids Bike initiative, a national nonprofit that aims to teach every kindergarten student in America how to ride a bike. All Kids Bike has funded similar programs across America, impacting a total of 1,390 schools as of April 2. This includes multiple other schools in the Salt Lake City area, such as David Gourley Elementary in Kearns and Edison Elementary in central Salt Lake. 

Academy Park is a Title 1 school, meaning that many of the low-income students who attend it may not get the opportunity to ride a bike otherwise. When the school was contacted by the organization, Leich would be the one to meet their challenge of teaching 30 kids how to ride. 

“I love the idea that we’re teaching them something that might get them outside,” Leich said. “I’m hoping that this might just start something that they can take with them.” This new program is funded by the Scheels company, who have provided a generous $9,000 grant to cover the expenses of the equipment package. Scheels prides itself on community involvement and nonprofit work, having previously given donations to organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the United Way of America. 

After a brief safety rundown, the students were ready to bike. One by one, they mounted their bikes for the first time with the help of a Scheels volunteer and slowly rode in a circle to get a feel for the new skill they will soon be learning. 

“It’s really nice being able to work for a company that is investing in the future,” said George Hagan, social media manager at Scheels in Sandy, Utah. “Being able to know that there are kids who are not even born right now who are going to be riding these bikes in a few years is really cool.” λ