In the mid-1980s, Marilyn Price was mountain biking on Mt. Tam. She planned to be a social worker and had been interested in environmental issues for years. At the top of the mountain, looking out at the treetops, she thought, wouldn’t it be great if someone could bring low-income and struggling kids out on these mountain bike rides and give them a chance to experience nature and challenge themselves?
Price tested her ideas on two trips with kids from the local nonprofit, The Canal Alliance, which serves the primarily low-income Hispanic community in the Canal neighborhood of San Rafael. A couple friends helped her lead the rides and find bikes for the kids to use, “just to try it out,” she said.
The kids loved it.
From 1988 to 1998, Price ran Trips for Kids out of her home. Volunteers helped lead bike rides once a week with kids from different school groups and organizations. Others donated bikes and bike parts, turning her garage into a massive junk room/storage facility. At one point, she said, she had 100 bikes stacked in the backyard and neighbors were upset about the mess.
In between putting on bike swaps to raise money and leading groups of kids on mountain bike rides around Marin County, she worked part-time for an environmental organization. “It was sort of do-able,” she said.
In 1994, Price started The Recyclery , which raised money for the trips by selling donated bike parts and having volunteer mechanics work for relatively low rates on bikes and fix up the kids’ bikes. The Recyclery operated half out of her garage and half out of rented space. Slowly, though, she started renting more and more space until in 1998 the organization moved into an old house in downtown San Rafael. The Recyclery operates out of the bottom of the building and in what used to be the garage, with offices upstairs for organizing and administration.
Rides typically start with kids from a local nonprofit, school or Boys and Girls Club meeting their trip leaders in the mid-morning. It usually takes an hour or so to prepare the kids and their bikes for the two- to three-hour ride. Often you’ll see the large groups of kids on weekends or after school, mountain biking at China Camp, Tennessee Valley or in Golden Gate Park.
Price used to lead many of the rides herself. She’d seen the kids arrive with lots on their minds, lots of other issues going on, but when they start riding “it all melted away,” she said. Now, she’s too busy with running the growing organization to lead most of the rides. Instead, volunteers ride with the kids and teach them the basics of mountain biking.
Last year, Trips for Kids put on 185 rides with 1,600 kids. Since that first ride that Price envisioned, the group has worked with kids from over 400 different organizations. While the biggest chapter is in the Bay Area, where Price founded it, there are now chapters around the country, and in Africa, Israel and Canada.
To volunteer leading rides or working in the Recyclery, visit www.tripsforkids.org/marin/volunteer.htm.