Blog: May 2013

Sunday, May 5

By Andy McNeil, Courier Post
Sunday, May 5, 2013

MEDFORD — The first 10 miles of the eighth annual Pedal for Promise bike ride held Saturday in Burlington County was a struggle for Camden teen Faith Kroma.

“My breathing was really heavy, my bike seat was too low and my knees started hurting,” the 16-year-old said. “I wanted to just give up and do the 15 miles instead of 30.”

The UrbanPromise Academy sophomore found the inspiration to finish alongside the eight other teens on the school’s elite team after her coach, Dan Higgins, reminded her that she would have to complete the 30-mile ride in order to take a spin on back of his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Kroma also wanted to uphold the team’s ethos of togetherness.

“We start together and we finish together,” she said.

In all, about 375 people participated in the ride, which took cyclists on a 15-, 30- or 65-mile loop beginning and ending at Johnson’s Corner Farm in Medford. The event raised about $70,000 for the academy’s boat-building and UrbanTrekkers programs, according to Jim Cummings, director of experiential learning at UrbanPromise.

He said the nonprofit programs bring learning experiences outside the classroom by connecting kids to the outdoors and nature.

“Intuitively, I’ve always known that if you want to get kids excited about learning, you’ve got to get them excited about living first,” Cummings said.

Started 25 years ago by college students as a summer camp, UrbanPromise now runs its own schools and has expanded to nearby cities like Trenton and Wilmington, Del., as well as such far-flung places as Miami, Vancouver, Honduras and Uganda.

For this year’s ride, UrbanPromise Academy’s team started training in January by attending two spinning classes each week at the Cherry Hill Racquet Club. In March, the teens took Sunday rides around Camden and wrapped up their training in Burlington County last month. The teens’ road bikes and helmets were donated by Higgins, whose wood flooring company in Medford sponsored the team.

UrbanPromise Academy sophomore Nai-Nai Thomas said she didn’t realize how many bike paths were in Camden and enjoyed the beauty of rides along the city’s waterfront. She and Kroma will also soon take to the Cooper River to test a two-seat kayak they created through the school’s boat- building program.

This summer, several of the students will join Cummings on a two-week hike through five national parks in Colorado and Utah. The bulk of the funding for the trip comes from Pedals for Promise.

John Bahm of Tabernacle spoke to the importance of the inner-city trips. He and his wife, Beth, were among the trainers supporting the kids during the character-challenging rides.

“We wanted to show these kids that they could actually ride bikes in their own neighborhood,” he said.

Reach Andy McNeil at amcneil@gannett.com or (856) 486-2458.

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