By Lisa Milliken

As I drove up the parking lot of our Harrisonburg Minnick School, the image of young people in bike helmets came into sight.  There were many bikes, old and new, two-wheeled and three-wheeled, leaning against the school building.  It brought back the joyful memory of receiving the brand new Trek bike my parents purchased for me in 1985 during my freshman year at James Madison University.

Now, thanks to an $1,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation, our students will be able to feel the same joy I felt that day.

With the “QuickStart Mini Grant” of $1,000, Luke Fuglie, the Physical Education teacher at our Harrisonburg Minnick School, will purchase four new mountain bikes to be used in his PE classes.

I’ve had the pleasure of observing a class of eighth- and ninth-grade students prepare for their new equipment.  These students were not only learning about biking and bike safety but, bicycle maintenance as well.  I enjoyed watching one student eagerly assist Mr. Fuglie replace the chain on a bike, while another  gingerly gripped a newly painted bike frame for the shiny gold bike he would rebuild with help from Mr. Wells, a teaching assistant at our Harrisonburg Minnick School.

As I stood watching a few students demonstrate their skills on a bike, Noah, a student at Harrisonburg Minnick School, rode over to me and asked if I had seen his little “bunny hop” trick.  I said that I had seen it and that I was impressed!  He then  shared with me that  he didn’t know how to ride a bike until two weeks ago when Mr. Fuglie taught him how to balance in PE class.  When I asked  Noah what his favorite part of biking was, he replied, “Going fast!”

Mr. Fuglie did not agree that teaching the students to go fast was the finest part of his lesson; instead, he was pleased with the patience that his students had learned.  One student in particular would get frustrated, frustrated and give up within 5 minutes of trying to change a tire or replace a bike seat.  Now, that same student is using problem solving skills and completing small bike maintenance projects with persistence.

Over the summer months and next school year, Mr. Fuglie plans to continue to expand upon his assortment of bikes.  This will require donations beyond the four bikes that will be purchased with the grant money. If you have an old bike to donate, dust off the cobwebs and give him a call! Come to think of it….my 1985 Trek bike is still in my garage collecting dust.  I think I will donate it to Luke Fuglie and you should do the same!

Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride. ~John F. Kennedy

A baseball fan and dog-lover, Lisa Milliken is also the assistant director of education at Lutheran Family Services.