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Local Kids Earn Free Bikes

Last week, a group of 8 youth living in Cabrillo Village earned free bikes after a week long Summer camp. But this was no handout; the youth had to first complete lessons in bike maintenance, safe riding, safe route selection, and character development. 

The camp was put on in partnership with EPIC Leadership Center, an organization of volunteers working with youth in low-income neighborhoods. It was an idea cooked up by Christine Wood, the founder of EPIC, and Heidi Buccola, BikeVentura Board Secretary. They live across the the street from each other, and after some talking found their own community work could be reinforced by the other’s. “We thought of it at first as a mechanic club – like the HUB club,” says Buccola, “but we wanted to get the kids riding… to get them out of the neighborhood and show them the possibilities a bike could bring and introduce them to a bigger world.” From this intent sprang the idea of the summer camp. 

Alex Penaloza, who has been staff at the Ventura Bike HUB since he was just out of High School, was the lead instructor. He’s had experience working with kids and bikes at the HUB Club, a weekly youth mechanic workshop, and leadership camps. He loved the chance to teach and engage these youth and show them the freedom a bike can bring. “We’re taking them out on rides, showing them new things…but also teaching them about independence and responsibility. What are you gonna do if you get a flat tire out on a ride? Now they don’t have to rely on someone to help them out.”

There was some hands-on training to learn how to remove and patch a tube, and what to check on their bike before they go riding. Campers also learned how to pick safe bike routes using the county bike map, how to properly wear helmets, and how to safely start, stop, and ride with traffic. Each day concluded with a ride on some of Ventura’s streets and bike paths. The final ride was from Foster Park to the beach, and back to the HUB. At the end, the kids kept their bikes to put all their new knowledge and skills to use, and to enjoy the freedom a bicycle will afford them. They also received free helmets, lights, and locks. Healthy snacks and lunches were provided by Heidi Buccola. 

The camp was funded by private donors, Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills Community Benefits Program, and a generous contribution from EPIC. We’re looking forward to continued partnership with EPIC and next year’s camp! 


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