Marilyn Price

Getting Kids Into Nature

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She loves to mountain bike. She loves kids. She cares about the environment. How did Marilyn Price meld her favorite things? She started Trips for Kids in 1988 to share her passions for mountain biking and the environment with urban kids who may never get the chance to get out into nature.  Trips for Kids chapters are now found all over the U.S. and internationally. Maybe you would like to start a chapter.

Founder and Director of Trips for Kids, Marilyn Price, found her inspiration for Trips for Kids® (TFK) in 1986, when she was pedaling up Mount Tamalpais, gazing at San Francisco. As a frequent volunteer at St. Anthony’s Dining Room in the heart of the inner city, she thought how wonderful it would be if these kids could join her. Most had never seen their city from that perspective. Most had never challenged themselves physically. All spent their days surrounded by cement as well as constant exposure to drugs, violence and gang involvement. It was then that Marilyn’s vision for Trips for Kids began to take shape.

Marilyn volunteered her time during the two-year pilot program. Trips for Kids became incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1988. Since then, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, many thousands of disadvantaged kids from throughout the San Francisco Bay Area have experienced the natural world from the seat of a mountain bike.

The program expanded dramatically in 1994 with the establishment of the Re-Cyclery bicycle thrift shop, and an Earn-A-Bike program. In addition to providing great deals on bikes and parts and affordable transportation for Bay Area residents, the shop funds a majority of TFK program costs. Meanwhile, the Earn-A-Bike program teaches youngsters valuable life skills in a safe environment.

Encouraged by the TFK success in San Francisco and by others interested in starting similar programs, in 1999, TFK began supporting the development of Trips for Kids chapters around the United States and around the world. There are now 70 TFK chapters in the world. If you want to start a Trips for Kids chapter in your own community, TFK is happy to help.

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Marilyn Price:   I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri; we were out in the suburbs. In all honesty, my family did not have a connection to nature. I had to develop that on my own.

Marilyn Price:   I started Trips for Kids because, one, I was concerned about our environment: two, I thought I was going to be a social worker, but instead I went to work for Huey [Johnson]; and three, because I love biking.

Marilyn Price:   My connection with the environment actually started when I was in college. I would think of myself as an urban environmentalist. You know, I wanted to protect the planet from us destroying it, but I still was not into nature. The thing that got me into nature was my mountain bike, I worked at a bike shop in the early ’80s and the kids around here were riding mountain bikes. I started mountain biking, and that took me out into nature. The first ride I took, we went out actually to Colorado to Crested Butte and because you’re going slowly — I was never a hiker but I loved to bike — you’re going slowly and it was like every turn it would open up. It really opened my eyes to the beauty of nature until you got to 12,000 feet and — wow, this is incredible. So those things were the spark that got me into Trips for Kids.

We are a youth mountain biking program. We take kids who could not otherwise afford it on mountain bike rides. We also have earn-a-bike programs where they can come after school, they learn how to work on bikes, they earn points for bikes of their own. We also have a bike thrift shop that helps to fund… it funds about 50% of our expenses. I had collected so many parts for repair of our bikes. Literally my house in Mill Valley was overrun– boxes in every room, a hundred bikes in the back yard–and we’re now a national/international program. We have 70 Trips for Kids chapters, kind of around the world because we have one in Israel and one in Sierra Leone. The rest are in the United States and five are in Canada; so the idea has spread.

Peggy Lauer:     How did you see the benefits for the children? And what have you gotten out of it?

Marilyn Price:   You know we talk about the environment with the kids. Of course many of them are now getting it in school, which I did not but we throw it in. We have to be very careful not to be pedantic. The kids are out there to ride the bikes. They want to have fun. I used to say of our trips; it’s kind of like osmosis. I would just compare it to myself, you know, Pearl Pass [in Crested Butte] what it did for me. I just imagine we’ve done that for a lot of kids.

Peggy:   How many rides and how many kids have been served through Trips for Kids?

Marilyn Price:   The number of rides here in the San Francisco Bay Area through the years since we started in 1988–it’s been over 30,000 kids, individual kids, who have participated. When you take our chapters, it’s about 140,000. We’re not very bureaucratic, you know. I have not made it like: “You have to do this. You have to do that.” I look…the people that started – some of them are into bike skills, some of them are psychologists– they’re into more of the social work, personal development–some are into environmental education, and we use the bicycle as a tool. So I feel that these chapters, if they have a passion that’s on bike skills or a passion that’s on personal development, you know, they shouldn’t be forced to just concentrate on environment, because it’ll fall flat. You need a good environmental educator with a lot of passion to do that. So that’s kind of how our trips have been, but they are all exposing kids to the great outdoors. They are all off the street. Some of them might be on toe paths or bike paths, most of them are out into nature though.

Marilyn Price:   When I first thought of the idea of doing it when I was up on Mount Tam, I was not a very confident person and I thought, “I can’t do this.” Two weeks later, I read in Bicycling magazine that a psychologist with a Hollywood YMCA was running a similar program. His name was Kevin Fox. I wrote him, you know: I’m not a psychologist, what do you think?  He said, just start small, you can do it. You do not need to be a psychologist. That gave me the encouragement to do it. So we did. Years later I’m running it. We’re getting all this press and I’m starting to get people from around the country, you know: “Oh yeah, I thought of it. Great idea.” And we decided we would start chapters to help them get started. And I dare say you wouldn’t have 140,000 kids out there doing what we did if they hadn’t had the inspiration. So I kind of got a little side tracked with Trips for Kids, because the environment really was my main concern. And so in my volunteer time now I want to do more that is directly connected with solving our environmental problems. And what I have learned and what I would say to any young person today, or anybody young or old, is that if you have an idea of something that to you is important, I would say just go for it. And what I found was that every step led to the next step. I didn’t really have to think about it. In our case, it was such a popular thing taking kids on mountain bike rides that we just kept attracting people. But whether – if you believe in it — whether it’s that popular or not, you just go for it. You just work hard. You believe in it. You don’t stop and you keep at it and it will just grow and grow.

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