Julie Childers – Executive Director, Co-Founder
It really started in 1996 when Pat Childers was asked to take a group of teens on a bike ride so younger kids could find all the hidden Easter eggs unencumbered. What they teens realized was that the bike ride was the highlight of their day and Pat realized he needed to keep these kids rolling. So when my husband Pat and I realized that there were so many kids around who know about or couldn’t access nearby nature trails we knew we had to do something.
I love biking – on the road, trails, stationery exercise – and it saddened us both to think kids couldn’t experience the thrills, joys, connectivity to nature, and downright fun exercise that comes from bicycling. So, in 2002, after years of ad hoc rides with kids, we started Trips for Kids Metro DC to offer many underserved youth the opportunity to experience the sheer joy that comes from biking, especially in nature. In 2009 we realized our programs exceeded the TFK national program model and changed our name to TrailsforYouth.Org (TYO) and it has taken off ever since.
TYO programs go beyond biking to a more holistic approach to encouraging active exploration of nature – bike, hike, fish, kayak etc. For many, our programs are a lifeline and are the only reason they can get out to the trails. Without TYO removing the barriers, these youth just wouldn’t have the chance to experience the amazing trails so close to their home. At the time we started the organization, I didn’t mountain bike at all. I liked to road ride, did a few centuries, but no way was I going to go over logs or ride whatever a “skinny” was. Turns out, it’s really fun. I still consider myself a modest mountain biker and yet I understand the release and effect trail rides have on the kids in our program. As we are now well into our 2nd decade of providing these opportunities, we are focusing on creating lasting legacy opportunities (see Brookfield Park). When I’m not running the office of TYO, you may find me on the Wakefield or Accotink trails. I feel fortunate to help provide the opportunity that is so vital to many kids in our area. We truly are teaching kids to overcome obstacles on the trail and in life! Join us on the adventure.
Jr. Counselors – Teen Jobs Program
Riders with TYO typically start in 5th grade and continue through high school as participants. As they begin to mature, we often hear they have to stop participating in order to seek part-time jobs to help pay basic living expenses. Recognizing this need for our older riders, TYO created the Jr. Counselor Jobs Program. Though this program riders that have participated and embraced our messages and efforts can become paid part-time Jr. Counselors for TYO events. The teens must complete a a job application, be interviewed, complete employment forms, training and be responsible to adhering to their work schedules. Working with TYO managers and event leaders , the teens learn the “in and outs” of the working world. Not only do the teens gain valuable work experience, they also can continue to participate with TYO and reap the healthy benefits of being active. Teens have gone on to work for the Park Authority, other part-time jobs and have gained confidence and skills they can transfer into their efforts to attend college or more advanced job training /employment opportunities.
TYO Jr. Counselor jobs program acts as a springboard for teens to enter the workforce in a safe and welcoming transition that provides education and experience, plus the younger kids listen to their older peers they look up to – a win-win for all!