SARATOGA SPRINGS — A group of 15 child workers at Saratoga Race Course received new mountain bikes and helmets Saturday from a local nonprofit.
Saratoga Shredders, a Saratoga Springs-based nonprofit whose mission is to get more girls and children riding mountain bikes, gave the 15 kids new bikes and held a safety clinic and of cycling skills for them on Saturday morning.
“Giving everyone the opportunity to ride a bike is really one of the goals of our organization,” said Anna Laloë, Founder and Executive Director of Saratoga Shredders. “It doesn’t matter what their background is, or their financial situation, the socio-economic reasons why they can’t ride, we kind of try to break down as many barriers as possible to get into the sport that way.
Mountain biking can be a prohibitively expensive sport, Laloe said. She explained that Saratoga Shredders offers scholarships for their own programming as well as bikes for kids who can’t necessarily afford a bike to join their program.
Saratoga Shredders hold one or two events during the year called Shredders Outreach events, Laloë said.
“We’re reaching out to another nonprofit in the area that has a need and has child and youth development as part of their mission, and this is one of those events,” Laloe said. “New York Race Chaplaincy runs a summer camp for children of Saratoga workers.”
The 15 children in the camp program received new mountain bikes and helmets and were able to attend a bike safety and skills clinic, Laloë said. The 15 children were between the ages of 5 and 14.
The 15 new bikes and helmets cost a total of about $5,000, Laloe said. She explained that they could be purchased with grants from the Christopher Dailey Foundation and the Common Roots Foundation.
Saturday’s clinic taught kids about bike and helmet safety, as well as bike riding techniques based on their skill level. Laloë explained that with a skills clinic, they usually have to assume that about half of the kids have never ridden a bike before. She said for kids who have never ridden or ridden a bike, they can teach them how to ride a bike. For kids who have ridden a bike before and are comfortable on flat, grassy terrain without assistance, they set up a skills course.
“We have wooden features where kids can climb and ride on them,” Laloe said. “We have these skinny bridges where they can go up a little ramp and over to the other side. We have a couple of what we call seesaws, imagine like a seesaw but very low six inches off the ground.
Saturday’s event was the second such event, Laloe said. She explained that last year, Saratoga Shredders partnered with the Schenectady Boys And Girls Club to distribute bikes and teach biking skills.
The physical, emotional and social side of biking has been great for kids over the past two years, Laloe said. She explained that it was one of the few safe things kids could do together while staying socially distant.
“It’s the confidence they build riding with their peers over tough terrain,” Laloe said. “In mountain biking in particular, we are on trails. When they look at an obstacle in front of them, a log or a hill or something and they look at it like, ‘can I overcome this feature, can I do this?’ and it’s a totally transferable skill. We do this every day, facing our fears and deciding if we can go out there and try to accomplish them or wait until the next day and try again.
Saratoga Shredders has expanded and now offers five programs from the Albany area to Queensbury for children in kindergarten through twelfth grade.
“It instills confidence and empowerment in these kids through the sport of mountain biking,” Laloë said. “It really translates to school work, home life, so many of these girls come home and teach their dads how to put their chains back on their bikes, or teach their brothers how to jump over curbs, things that aren’t traditionally a sport for girls and activities for girls that they can bring to the table and have more confidence riding with other girls in Saratoga.
This fall, Saratoga Shredders is offering girls-only and co-ed mountain biking for K-12 grades based in Saratoga Springs, Albany and Queensbury, Laloë said. Saratoga Shredders is sponsored by Teakwood Builders, Gray Ghost Bicycles, Kindest, Women’s Care of Saratoga/Glens Falls and Trek Saratoga.
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