The Axel Project

This post is about something wonderful, that comes from something terrible.  So it’s hard to know where to start.  Every once in a while, I’ll get a notification that I have a new follower, and it’ll be someone who seems really cool.  This happened a couple of weeks ago.  Jen Charrette is a mom into cycling, adventure, and travel.  Her twitter profilet also mentioned The Axel Project; with a name like that, how could I not be intrigued.

Before I get into what’s great about it (besides the name), I did have the sinking feeling that it was one of those causes born from a terrible loss.  Axel Charrette was a 2 year-old who had “love of life and adventure....He left a mark on almost everyone he came in contact with. His energy, kind soul, and joy of life was contagious.”  I remembered reading about his death in the news earlier last year, and I think I had repressed the memory; suffice it to say, I wish I had never read it, and if you’ll take my advice, we’ll leave it at the tragic loss of a child.

Having said that, I simply have to tell you about the Axel Project because it’s just that fantastic. From the website:

Axel Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the fundamental principle that a productive, happy life begins with bikes. Our mission is to introduce and nurture a lifelong passion for cycling to children and their families. While our goal is broad, our first project is aimed at providing balance bicycles and instruction to children in need, ages 18 months to 5-years of age, to teach the basic skills necessary to get them riding on two wheels—with their friends, their family and forever.

As I mentioned in the Designed To Move post, it’s imperative to develop these habits and values before age 10.  This is where the Axel Project is being smart - they are promoting the use of glider bikes.  The more traditional path of getting kids on pedal bikes with training wheels only delays their progress; the complicated act of turning the pedals is what they work on before learning balance, and so they get to go so fast, that they’re scared to take off the training wheels.

We've had great success with a glider for Shark Boy.  Thanks to using a glider, he was able to participate in a Duathlon before he turned 3. Though people always marvelled to see him cruising our neighbourhood at such a young age, I was surprised to find how resistant people could be to adopting a similar strategy - the worst had to be when I found myself arguing with an 8 year-old neighbour over the necessity of training wheels; +10 points for intention, -100 for common sense (an 8 year-old!).

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Less than a year later he was riding a real bike (in a foreign country, no less)... that's a bike with pedals, no training wheels, being ridden by a 3 year-old.

We've been struggling a little with the Lightning Kid in this regard, but the honest reason is his legs aren't so long and don't reach the ground from even the plastic toddler glider we got, though I have a good feeling about this spring, after seeing what kind of physical stunts he's been capable of pulling around the house.

Thanks to the Chariot, we've already taken short family bike rides on weekends, and I look forward to more. Bicycles are really the best short-cut to getting the whole family involved in an active adventure, and the Axel Project is making that happen for as many families as they can. Donations can be made by Paypal or mailing a cheque.

I really hope that somewhere, Axel Charrette, is having fun, and smiling at the kinds of adventures families like mine and his might be having.

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