Every week at CYCLE Kids classes you can see children enjoying the fun of cycling and learning the concepts of a healthy lifestyle. As strange as it may seem, this is a new experience for many of the children. For Toby, learning to ride the bike was the least of his challenges. We were six weeks into our autumn semester at a Boston inner-city school. Our group of CYCLE Kids students appeared, as they did each Tuesday, with smiling faces and eager to get out on their bikes. So far all of the kids had stuck with our program, but on this day one child was missing. Toby apparently had missed school having reported in sick. We thought no more of it and continued with our class.

At the end of class we were scheduled to have a review meeting with Citizen Schools, who are the overall coordinators of the after school programs at this particular school. It was here that we learned more of Toby as well as his class mates. Toby lives with his mother in a shelter for battered women. As tough as that may be, he has an even bigger battle on his hands. Toby has hepatitis-C and it is his heavy program of medication that frequently makes him sick.

After learning of Toby’s plight, as well as those of some of the other children in the class, it struck us just how important the CYCLE Kids program had become to these children. The mere fact that Toby volunteered to join us in the first place speaks volumes, for he is a very shy and introverted boy. Each week he is always smiling, never complains (even though his sickness and medication may be dragging him down) and displays a fierce determination to conquer the bike so that he can ride alongside the rest of his friends. After just four weeks he accomplished that goal. The most moving testament is that we were told Toby’s mother had contacted the school, overjoyed by the fact that each week he returned home happy and smiling.  She said the CYCLE Kids program had helped Toby academically and emotionally.  Since he learned to ride a bike, his confidence was better and he had started doing his homework.  She was thrilled her son had the opportunity to be a "CYCLE Kid."

Julianne Idlet