SARATOGA SPRINGS — Kindergarten students at Greenfield Elementary School received a surprise on Friday, with the donation of 24 Strider balance bicycles by Saratoga Shredders.
Saratoga Shredders is a local non-profit organization aiming to provide more children with the opportunity to ride bicycles. Anna Laloë, founder and executive director of Saratoga Shredders, said “It’s really a dream,” to see the students receive the bikes.
“This is something I’ve been wanting to do ever since I started Saratoga Shredders, was to be able to be part of the school curriculum,” Laloë said.
Laloë said Saratoga Shredders currently offers after-school programs but wanted to expand to the school level to help reach as many children as possible.
“We thought that if we start at a school level, at a kindergarten school level, and they’re taught in P.E., that automatically it’s going to allow them to learn how to ride,” said Laloë. “Really, the whole idea of Shredders is to remove as many barriers as possible to get kids on bikes. If we can provide this to another group of kids to be able to have access to bikes for free, that’s really what our premise is.”
Saratoga Springs City School District athletic director Nick McPartland said approving the donation of bicycles was “an absolute no-brainer.”
“To make these kids feel like, ‘Hey, I’m getting to do something at school that I might not be able to do at home,’ it’s really exciting to think that’s going on in our district,” said McPartland. “There’s a lot of schools that don’t have this type of stuff, especially at the elementary level. It just makes you feel really good.”
Laloë said the school district was very supportive, saying the process came together rather quickly.
“There was no pushback from the district at all, so that was really, really special,” said Laloë. “For it to go from the first conversation with Coach (Ricupero) at the end of November, to basically two months later, the bikes are here in the school. It’s just an incredible process to be a part of.”
The Strider balance bicycles are not a typical bike. They come without pedals attached, allowing kids to practice their balance before eventually advancing to pedaling. Pedals can be manually added on to the bike once the child is comfortable. Greenfield Elementary P.E. teacher Mike Ricupero said this can make for an easier transition to a typical bike.
“The difference between a Strider and a bike with training wheels is that balance,” Ricupero said. “The balance is a huge part of riding a bike. Training wheels are great, but it slows you down to progress to actually getting to ride a bike. The Strider bike is a faster way to get kids on pedal bikes.”
“These Strider bikes allow kids to understand balance right away, by removing the training wheels,” added McPartland. “So now they’re forced to use their feet, but also when they feel confident, to get their feet off the ground and ride just on the two wheels. Over time, they’re going to become more and more confident on how to balance a bike and be able to ride it.”
The balance bikes also come with a curriculum for teaching students how to learn to ride. Ricupero said the lessons will help students build up their confidence and skills from one day to the next.
“The lessons are broken down for the kids to actually build upon the skills they already learned in the previous lesson,” said Ricupero. “We’re just excited that, by the end of lesson nine, most of the kids or all of the kids will be able to ride a bike with the pedals.”
Ricupero said he was initially contacted by Laloë, and their conversations led to the donation of the bikes, saying the opportunity “kind of fell in our lap.”
“We met one day, and we just kind of talked through some of the obstacles and some of the things that we needed to do,” said Ricupero. “There’s generous people in the community willing to donate money to these bikes, and for me, it was a no-brainer.”
The bikes were purchased as a package from the All Kids Bike program, said Laloë, costing about $6,000 total. The package was funded by donations from local families of Greenfield Elementary students and members of Saratoga Shredders.
Will and Jen Aldrich, Dr. Amy Knoeller, Dr. James North, Thad and Talara Hedgpeth, Peter Mulford, Jane Cramer Varian, and the Winter family all donated funds toward the purchase of the bicycles, according to a press release by Saratoga Shredders.
While the Greenfield Elementary kindergarteners will be the first to go through the curriculum, there are hopes of expanding the program throughout the district.
“If we do a pilot here at Greenfield, figure out if it works at a kindergarten level, and then maybe scale it up to all the other elementary schools and then K-5 over maybe year two or something,” said Laloë. “That would be the idea, would be a progressive step for them to learn new skills as they get older and the bikes get bigger for them.”
“Again, we’re very fortunate that we have this, and I’m confident that it’s going to be used a tremendous amount,” McPartland said.