From The Colorado Sun (Joe Purtell):
Not everyone who lives in Colorado’s resort communities has the means to get involved in the outdoor sports that help define the region. That’s why Brett Donelson founded The Cycle Effect, a nonprofit designed to improve access and develop skills and character that will stick with girls throughout their lives.
“I live in an area where there’s extreme wealth, and a whole bunch of lower-income people that don’t get to just enjoy the outdoors,” Donelson says. “Can we do this kind of model of this year-round training with athletes for kids that generally can’t afford it or don’t have those opportunities?”
Since 2013, 40 girls have graduated from The Cycle Effect, with many more participating for shorter periods. The nonprofit says all the girls who stuck with the program for at least two years graduated from high school and went on to college — and 75% of them were the first in their families to do so.
This year, 175 girls have been organized into four teams in Edwards and in Eagle and Summit counties. Each participant pays $140 for access to a bike and gear, coaching, and race fees. In 2018, The Cycle Effect says, 75% of participants were from minority or low income families — and that’s good news for Development Director Vikki Flynn.
“There weren’t a lot of Hispanic girls in the bike races and in the biking community,” [Vikki] Flynn says. “And so to see that now is pretty awesome.”
The Cycle Effect works to keep costs low to attract kids from every background, and counts on teachers and word-of-mouth marketing to generate interest in the program. The fee also covers after-school programs, summer coaching and race fees for girls who typically range from fifth to 12th grades.
While Donelson thinks getting someone out mountain biking can change lives on its own, he says the coaches use the sport to teach resilience. Essentially, toughness translates.
“I think we’re teaching them in a way to dream big, and realize, ‘Wow, I can do this.’ And then to go out and do it,” Flynn says.