Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe receives ‘Specialized’ donation | SierraSun.com

Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe receives ‘Specialized’ donation

Roughly 40 youngsters from the Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe wore broad smiles last Tuesday as they pedaled brand new Specialized mountain bikes around a grass lot near the club's Kings Beach facility as part of a donation from the Tahoe Fund.

"It was really fun, I did like five laps," said 9-year-old Henry Taves. "(The best part) was getting to try the different sizes."

With construction of a nearby trail set to begin next spring, the Tahoe Fund presented 20 new mountain bikes to the club, which also included the donation of a storage system, helmets, and extra parts as part of a new mountain bike program at the club.

"This is the first mountain bike program we've ever done," said Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe Director of Operations Ben Visnyei. "We envision it being a world-class introduction to mountain biking with certified professional instruction, great trails, and access to new, safe, reliable equipment.

"We're really excited to be providing a new opportunity to the kids in Kings Beach to be able to access the trails they have right in their backyard. They'll get on the bikes right here at the club, bike two blocks, and they'll be on the trails."

From a new trail to new bikes

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With funds raised and work expected to begin next spring on the Kings Beach Trail, which will transfer a current off highway vehicle trail with erosion issues into a multi-feature trail, the Tahoe Fund partnered with The Specialized Foundation in an effort to get more children out biking the area's trails.

"There are a lot of trails just two blocks from the Boys & Girls Club that the kids don't necessarily have the opportunity to get to. You need a bike to go mountain biking, and so when we were working with the forest service and (Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association) on building this new trail two blocks from the club, it dawned on us that it was a great opportunity to introduce a whole new group of kids to the joy of riding outside," said Amy Berry, CEO of the Tahoe Fund.

"We partnered with the Specialized Foundation, and they are really focused on getting more people on bikes, especially kids. They've done some incredible research with Stanford that shows that getting kids on bikes for 20 minutes a day, three days a week, has the same impact as ADHD medication."

Through its Riding for Focus program, The Specialized Foundation has explored and tracked how cycling can positively affect student learning, health, and wellbeing with a focus on those with learning differences such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

"We have found it to be a pretty simple formula; kids and bikes equal happier, more attentive students in the classroom. For the past few years, The Specialized Foundation has been helping this happen through 84 Riding for Focus middle school programs deployed across the country," said Ted Theocheung, CEO of The Specialized Foundation in a statement. "We are delighted to partner with the Tahoe Fund who led the development support that enabled this project, and with the team at Village Ski Loft who volunteered to build the bikes. Our vision with this partnership is to expand our programs toward middle schools throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin."

As part of the program, sponsored by the Tahoe Fund with support from the Reno-Tahoe Audi Cycling Club, mountain bike instruction will be provided by coach Ryan Solberg and the Truckee North Tahoe Mountain Bike Club. The Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe also plans to offer week-long summer mountain bike camps starting in 2019.

The camps will be able to make use of the Kings Beach Trail, which is only a short ride from the clubhouse.

"It will be a new flow trail. They're going to take an old forest service road that's really flat with an incline that creates huge erosion issues right now. By redesigning it into flowy banks and turns and tabletops, they're able to shed the water off trail, and so it doesn't have such erosion issues. When water just pools on the trail and it just snows and rains, you see these huge ruts that run through the roads and all of that ends up in Griff Creek, which ends up right in the lake," said Berry.

"It's cliché but it's a total win-win. We're going help lake clarity and we're going to get a lot more people out enjoying nature."

Local business chips in

Lake Tahoe bike shop, Village Ski Loft, donated man hours to put together the 20 bikes, a project that Co-owner Aaron "Elko" James said took about a week.

"We were just excited to be a part of it. We were happy to get them all built as quickly as possible so the kids can have this day," said James, who also has two children in Boys & Girls Club.

"We worked hard to make sure everyone can have fun and be on bikes. That's what it's all about. The Specialized Foundation built really good, special bikes for all of these kids. They're modified a little bit. The frames are exactly the same, but the componentry build for each of the bikes has been simplified a lot so it's as simple as it possibly can get for all of these kids."

For more information on the Boys & Girls Club of North Tahoe visit BGCNLT.org.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.