If you were a kid in Hot Springs what would you not want to do without: A BIKE.
How many of us can remember our time prior to owning a car. For most of us, a bike was our way to be independent from the family, a freedom to choose what we wanted to do, and a means to do it. It was our first taste of independence.
My name is Kath and I moved to Hot Springs in June of 2017. I had a full knee replacement in October of 2017. I had waited 15 years due to insurance, hung up my mountain bike at the age of 55, and thereafter sold it. After surgery, the physical therapy, and home exercise program I had recovered full use of my knee. I wanted to return to mountain biking, but had no bike. Bikes had become expensive over the years.
I heard about this nonprofit in Missoula that teaches one to build a bike, repair a bike, and own a bike without a price tag. Free Cycles Missoula. What a gift! I started traveling to Missoula by Sanders County Public Transportation in February of 2018, stayed for two nights with an acquaintance who became a friend, and built my first mountain bike. Thereafter I learned that Free Cycles Missoula mission statement as a nonprofit was to build bikes for youth under 12 years of age.
I contacted Mr. Moore, K-6 Hot Springs Elementary principal, and asked if there were youth in grades K-6 who needed a bike. So it began.
In the following months I built two bikes: one went to a third-grader and the other to a fifth-grader. And then I learned there were more youths without bikes; more than I had time to build.
What began as a project to build a mountain bike for myself became a service project to build bikes for youth in Hot Springs. I approached Free Cycles Missoula executive director Bob Giodard and asked if Free Cycles would come to Hot Springs and bring bikes for youth without bikes, teach repair, and service bikes already owned by youth. The Bike Rodeo at Hot Springs Elementary was launched.
In researching Free Cycles other visits to Hot Springs I learned that in late August of 2017 very few youth were aware of them coming, most youth were scattered throughout the valley doing summer activities, and many of them had bikes in need of repair and/ others had no bikes.
What I realized is that youth needed to be taught the bicycle skills during school when their bikes are present and they are not depending upon an adult to transport them to the bike repair event.
How do I bridge the need with the demand and the special circumstances of the youth? What I needed to know was: How many students in K-6 needed bikes, provide an opportunity for students to repair their bikes, and then get permission from Mr. Moore to have students spend a day of school learning to repair and service their bikes. Biking for many of the students is their only transportation to and from school.
How do I acquire funding to support Free Cycles coming to Hot Springs? Free Cycles has been servicing Missoula for 22 years. Now, the organization is reaching out to the surrounding area to support youth with bikes. Traveling takes money, some parts are necessary to be new (ie. chains, tire tubes, etc.) while other parts require staff and volunteers to strip the parts from other used bikes in their bone yard. Working with Emily Jensen, program director, we put together a budget that would cover some of the costs necessary to bring a school bus with bike stands, bike parts, tools, nine bikes for students, and two staff with four to five volunteers.
The “how to’s” led me to “Who could I ask for support?” Pondering these questions, resources began to cross my path.
Hot Spring Community Services for Youth and Adults (HSCS) is a local nonprofit dedicated to serving the needs of youth and adults. Attending their board meeting, writing a budget proposal and presenting the project were the first steps in securing the project outcome.
Who else would support youth and their need for transportation?
Hot Springs City Council offered to have a contribution box at City Hall for locals to support youth.
Private business owners: Trudy Berge of Clearwater Montana Properties, Inc., Leslie Smith of Symes Hot Springs., and Alamedas Hot Springs Retreat contributed money.
How to feed Free Cycles Missoula staff and volunteers? Fergies donated pizzas. With the local support the event was secured.
If the public wants to make a contribution towards providing a bike for a Hot Springs student and/ supporting the staff instruction on repairing a bike and riding safely please visit City Hall during their office hours and ask for Amy or Jerry.
Free Cycles would like to thank Hot Springs Community for the opportunity to support their youth!
— Kathryn O’Siggins, Hot Springs