Cycling to Combat Childhood Obesity

Arizona’s children are in trouble – nearly 18% of children in Arizona ages 10-17 are considered obese.  Much of this can be attributed to lack of physical activity.  Statistics released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health ranks Arizona 15th in the nation for childhood obesity, with only 30% of children ages 6-17 participating in daily rigorous activity. 

What can be done about this epidemic?  TriSports.com has teamed up with local contributors including the Perimeter Bicycling Association of America, the Zuckerman Family Foundation, Bookmans, Nourishing Results and Purple Cow Creative to fund the Jr. El Tour to be held in conjunction with Tucson’s El Tour de Tucson cycling event held in November.  The mission of the program: take 20 underprivileged and over-weight children on a 12-week training journey to complete in the 40 mile option of El Tour de Tucson.  Along the way the kids will learn about nutrition, bike maintenance and how to live a healthy lifestyle.  2010 marks the 4th year of the Jr. El Tour program; a program created by Pyramid Coaching’s Scott Blanchard and ProActive Physical Therapy’s John Woolf.  Ultimately this pair designed the program to help lay the foundation for living an active and healthy lifestyle through their teenage and adult years.   The program provides bikes for the kids to ride, which can be kept once successfully completing the event.  Some kids already know how to ride a bike – many do not. 

In his photo essay, Tom Demerly will take you on your own journey with images taken during the distribution and fitting of the kid’s new Scott bikes.  It is our hope that through our involvement, we can inspire others to become involved in helping combat our nation’s childhood obesity problem. 

I know Scott Blanchard of Pyramid Coaching as a coach, racer and athlete. Seeing Scott work with these kids with such vigor and enthusiasm confirmed his passion for our sport and for people.

For many of the kids in the program this was their first exposure to bikes with gears and hand brakes. Volunteers provided instruction on how to use gears and brakes in a safe, indoor environment before taking the riders into the parking lot for their first rides.

In addition to the equipment the program provided the important knowledge required to get equipment fitted and set up correctly. Here a volunteer adjusts a helmet chin strap to a rider's head size.

Jr El Tour Bike Fitting

Bicycles grant a sense of independence and freedom, empowering adults and children with the ability to travel and expand their physical capabilities. This sense of wonder is captured in this young man's expression as he ponders adventures soon to be had.

Jr El Tour Bike Fitting

For some adults in the program it was the first opportunity to learn to ride a two wheeled bicycle. Set against the high desert backdrop these new riders confronted fears and learned new skills with the help of program volunteers.

Jr El Tour Bike Fitting

Scott Blanchard (right) prepares to release a new rider into the world of cycling- a day she will keep forever. Few things impact a person's life more than the ability to travel on their own terms and the bicycle is the first experience most of us have with independence and freedom.

Jr El Tour Bike Fitting

Someone to help: Providing the insight and caring to teach people how to use a bicycle is a real world contribution to our local community. Tucson is a bike friendly community, and this program typifies the city's love affair with cycling.

Jr El Tour Bike Fitting

Christmas in September. The enthusiasm and excitement are contagious- the positive energy of the people who contributed to the program being reflected back by the new riders.

Jr El Tour Bike Fitting

Photographing the event I was struck by the difference in the bracelets of the program instructor on the left and the young, new rider on the right. The young lady on the bike may have perceived her world as closed in by barbed wire as her bracelet suggests. The volunteer's bracelet hinted of hope and possibilites. The image shows a coming together of worlds.

Jr El Tour Bike Fitting

A first vehicle is a coming of age. This young man ponders the possibilites...

Jr El Tour Bike Fitting

She had never ridden a two wheel bicycle. I watched this lady shrug off years of apprehension as she mustered the courage to try something new, something missed as a child. It is an inspiring reminder that we can always experience new beginnings.

Jr El Tour Bike Fitting

Once a staple of youth, vigorous exercise is now a rarity for most young people. This program introduces lifestyle exercise to people who otherwise would have never experienced it.

Jr El Tour Bike Fitting

Scott Blanchard (left) cuts a seatpost down to fit a young rider. I met Scott as a coach and racer, a leading edge athlete. I came to know him today as an ambassador of cycling and a healthy lifestyle- a man making a tangible contirbution to lives through cycling.