Freewheels Bike Camp: New skills, bikes, friends and fun

Teaming with PAIR Houston and BikeHouston, Freewheels Houston volunteers introduced 65 refugee middle-schoolers to new bike skills–and new bikes–during a two-day camp at the Houston Independent School District’s Jane Long Academy in late June.

The campers also were entertained by five counselors from Lutherhill Camp and about 100 participants in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s national youth gathering. Freewheels is a ministry of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Houston, drawing support from the congregation as well as volunteers from across Houston.

The refugee youth attending the camp were all participants in well-regarded after-school programs conducted at five Houston schools by PAIR–the Partnership for Advancement & Immersion of Refugees. BikeHouston’s education director, Inge Ford, developed the bike skills curriculum.

PAIR staff and the Lutherhill counselors led a prep session for the ELCA Youth Gathering participants to brief them about the refugees they would meet. The triennial gathering brought more than 30,000 high school students and their adult leaders to Houston for three days. All participants spent one of their days engaged in a service learning project.

Groups of 50 arrived at Jane Long Academy early each day. The came from Southern California, New Jersey and North Dakota.

At the end of camp, each of the refugee youth left with a new bike along with locks, lights and a helmet, new skills and memories of new friends.

The helmets were provided by Legacy Community Health through the Hard Hats for Little Heads program of the Texas Medical Association. Legacy’s Dr. Stephen Chao provided a helmet safety briefing. Locks and lights were acquired with the support of Bike Barn, and the bikes were acquired with funding provided by Freewheels Houston’s generous supporters.

Planning is under way for the 2019 Bike Camp.