Big White Bike Camps to Help Youth from Disadvantaged Backgrounds Learn to Ride
Elevation Outdoors, a Kelowna-based charity, kicked off its four-day adult mountain bike camp on June 18, and has a youth one scheduled to begin July 9. Proceeds from these camps will go towards the charity’s Live to Ride program – an intensive, summer-long mountain bike program for youth aged 12 to 18 who would not have the opportunity to learn the sport otherwise.
“Not everybody is represented and not everybody has equal opportunity to gain experience in the outdoors,” says Mike Greer, Executive Director of Elevation Outdoors. “The participants don’t have to pay anything to come out. They have seven weeks of biking, and we provide the bikes and helmets – they just need to show up with clothes they’re comfortable in and closed toed shoes they can ride in.”
Elevation Outdoors also has rock climbing, sailing, snowboarding and hiking youth programs that are funded through this scholarship model. This summer, 10 of the 12 seats in the mountain bike program are fully funded, either by grants, donations, or the money from the Big White camps.
To qualify for a scholarship, youth must meet one of five different criteria: if the parents or guardians of the youth is at or below the low income cut-offs as published by the CRA; if the youth, parents or guardians are on social assistance; if they’re involved in the foster care system; if they’re on parole, probation or in a restorative justice program; and, if they get a referral from a mental health practitioner.
“We really do try to open our doors to young people from backgrounds that historically don’t have access or have limited access to these sports and try to be the gateway to getting more of them out,” Greer says.
Such as Willam, who, now 19, is volunteering with this summer’s Live to Ride participants. Willam spent the past two summers learning how to mountain bike through the same program, and has also participated in the snowboarding and hiking programs available through Elevation Outdoors.
“I was denied going to my summer camp,” he says. “Someone from foster parent support suggested the Live to Ride program as an alternative for something to do over the summer and I had quite a bit of fun.”
Willam fell in love with the sport that summer – and, he says, if he could afford a bike, he’d be out all the time.
“Without [the program], there wouldn’t be a way for many kids to go and keep themselves busy in the summer and do things,” Willam says. “Bored kids generally lead to trouble.”
If both the adult camp and youth camp at Big White fill up, Greer says they’ll be able to provide scholarships to five riders. But, “Even if it covers one or two seats, it’s still a win for us. It means we’ve gotten more people out and on bikes outside of our typical demographic.”
The Big White camps begin with three days of in-town riding and then a final day at Big White to experience true, mountain riding – a bike and helmet is provided for all four days. While there are still a serious number of barriers preventing someone from getting involved with the sport of mountain biking such as cost and fear, Greer says, the camps are designed to help beginners and novices feel confident going out on their own.
“Not only is it getting more people on bikes, but Big White is really helping us become a more sustainable organization,” he says. “And, over time, hopefully demonstrate to the kids in our Live to Ride program, that if this is a sport they really like, they can pursue work, they can get your instructors designation and work at Big White.”
Register for the four-day youth camp, here.