Anchorage’s Girls Riding Into Tomorrow (GRIT)—a mentorship program designed to get middle school-aged girls on bikes—nearly stalled when someone stole its bikes from a classroom earlier this week.
With only two weeks before a major bike trip marking the end of the six-week pilot program, the theft of the Specialized-donated bikes devastated the five girls involved, who’d hoped to keep the bikes after ‘graduating.’ But when GRIT’s founders and participants spread word of the thefts, the community helped replace the bikes almost as quickly as they had disappeared.
The outpouring of public support surprised founder Lael Wilcox, who says calls and donations poured in, thanks to articles in Alaska Daily News and talk on social media.
“It’s been so rad, and so positive” to see the community support them in such a huge way, says Wilcox, an ultra-endurance racer and co-developer of the Baja Divide backpacking route. “People were so moved by this and wanted to do anything they could to help. Talking to people this week, it’s inspired them to get riding, and that’s amazing. It kicked people into action; it made them want to help the girls, but also to get back on bikes.”
In addition to bike donations, GRIT received enough funding to run through 2018; Wilcox hadn’t been sure the program, started in December 2016, would be able to last past its first year.
By Wednesday afternoon, just a couple days after the thefts, the bikes had all been replaced. The girls are back to training for their touring overnight, with only a couple days of riding missed.
Completing the overnight—riding to a cabin 45 miles from Anchorage, primarily on bike paths, for a two-night camp out—is essential to GRIT. “I set that as the end goal, and we built the program around that,” says Wilcox. That meant spending the six weeks working on bike safety, basic maintenance, making their own bike bags, and prepping for the overnight.
“For next year, we want these girls to be mentors for the next group of GRIT girls, now that they have all the training,” she says.