Photo by Ty Swenson
Major Taylor Project participants and Seatac Global Connections High School students (from left to right) Subash Acharya, Yonas Kiflemariam (top), Jessy Rodriguez and Nigatu Abdi at the 2011 Spin-a-Thon.

REMINDER: Major Taylor Spin-A-Thon fundraiser, bringing bicycle programs to local schools, set for Feb. 16

Highline High School is next in line for the successful program

The 2nd Annual Major Taylor Spin-A-Thon fundraiser is coming back to West Seattle’ s Allstar Fitness on Thursday, Feb. 16 with the goal of raising $15,000 to bring the bicycle program to more high school students in 2012.

The fundraiser will support Cascade Bicycle Club’s Major Taylor Project which “reaches diverse students and provides them with unique opportunities for personal growth and empowerment through cycling,” according to Ed Ewing with Cascade. Last year the fundraiser brought the program to Chief Sealth and Denny students in West Seattle. This year’s proceeds are headed south to create one at Highline High School in Burien and elsewhere in South King County.

The program is named after Marshall “Major” Taylor, a turn-of-the-century African-American bicycle track champion.

Date: Thursday, Feb. 16
Time: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Allstar Fitness – West Seattle, 2629 S.W. Andover St.

There are four ways to participate:
1) Reserve a bike (in the Allstar spin room) for one, two or all three hours with a minimum donation of $25/hour.
2) ‘Sponsor-a-Spinner’: Collect pledges and ride up to three hours!
3) ‘Sponsor-a-Student’: Pledge support for the Major Taylor kids to spin up to 3 hours
4) ‘Match-a-Spinner’: Pledge support and have your organization match your efforts

To register or for further information contact Ed Ewing: (206) 778-4671, ed.ewing@cascadebicycleclub.org or Emma Epstein: (206) 957-6960, mtpa@cascadebicycleclub.org.

Make checks out to Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation. 100% of donations go to the Cascade Education Foundation, an IRS Section 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

For more information: www.majortaylorproject.org or www.blog.cascade.org

A little background
The Major Taylor Project started up in 2009 as a collaborative effort between then King County Executive Ron Sims and the Cascade Bicycle Club. It has continued to grow since that time with programs in place at Chief Sealth, Global Connections in SeaTac, The YES! Foundation through Evergreen High School, Union Gospel/Seattle Urban Academy and Solid Ground Transitional Housing in Magnuson Park.

Last year’s Spin-A-Thon goal was to raise $5,000. After three hours of jovial spinning for charity that number was crushed: the cycling community had raised $12,000 in one night to bring biking to the kids.

“We blew it away and it really shocked all of us,” Ewing said. “People really get it.”

“We are growing smartly with sustainability in mind,” Ewing said of Major Taylor Project’s future expansion. He has spoken with many high schools in Seattle and King County that are thrilled at the prospect of bringing the program in.

Essentially, the Major Taylor Project is broken into two phases, Ewing said. The first ten weeks kids learn about the history of Major Taylor, learn bike safety and agility skills and go out once a week after school for two and a half to three hour rides (on bikes provided by Cascade). The rides start out local, then get longer and reach parts of Seattle many of the kids have never seen or experienced. It is not uncommon for kids from Seatac to make the trek to Pike Place Market, using designated bike routes with the supervision of an instructor.

Phase two is the Earn-a-Bike program where Cascade Bicycle Club provides the kids with a used bike. Over the next five weeks the kids learn how to rebuild and maintain their own bike and turn their used frame into a top notch ride with new components. They learn from the certified bike mechanics at Cascade and are given a helmet, bike lock, set of rear and front lights and their refurbished bike at the end of the program.

For kids that want to take it to the next level, Ewing says Cascade encourages (but never pressures) graduates of the program to take part in Cascade’s annual Seattle to Portland (STP) ride – a 200-plus mile trek.

The driving force behind bringing Major Taylor to Highline High School
Alanah Baron is an avid cyclist and Highline High School English teacher in her 7th year on the job. She is also the driving force behind bringing Major Taylor to Highline.

She learned about the program while taking a spinning class from Ewing at Cycle U in West Seattle.

“And I thought, ‘That sounds perfect,’” Baron said. “It’s biking, it’s teenagers, it’s education and health and all that stuff I love to do in one tiny package.”

“I’m just really excited to be part of the beginning of what I hope to see become a really huge organization,” she added. ““I think it could be great because I don’t think (the students) can imagine themselves being able to do something like ride a bike to Portland, and so for them to take what seems like such an unattainable goal and to go through a process and meet that goal is really exciting.”

Baron plans to be a “cheerleader” for Highline’s Major Taylor Program, joining the students on their weekly rides, the big ride to Portland, and “becoming an advocate for students to become part of a cycling community.”

Baron’s love for cycling originated during her last year of college when she read Miles from Nowhere: A Round the World Bicycle Adventure (the story of a couple who sold their belongings and took off on a two-year biking adventure).

She took the inspiration quite literally.

“I saved a bunch of money, sold everything I owned, bought a bike, bought a tent and a sleeping bag and a one-way ticket to Paris and I spent a year traveling 15,000 miles on my bike (crisscrossing Europe),” she said.

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