VAIL, Colorado - Brett Donelson knows there is an issue with the high school drop-out rate. He also knows that athletics are one of the best ways to keep youth, especially young women, engaged in school.
The majority of youth programming in the country is low-cost team sports like soccer, basketball and volleyball.
But, Donelson thought, what about the kids that don't like those sports because they think they are not good at them?
Donelson has created a way to keep kids on the path to graduation that he believes has many benefits that "normal" sports cannot offer.
"I believe we have a community that is passionate enough to help launch and support a program that helps our youth graduate while building life-long skills," Donelson said. "This puts them on the path to being well-balanced adults. My goal with The Cycle Effect is to help local youth gain healthy perspectives, self esteem and vision in all aspects of their lives. Initially, I plan on doing this with competitive mountain biking and then move into internships that allow participants to interact with strong, influential leaders in our community."
Donelson's vision is to make The Cycle Effect a statewide organization through professional mountain bike coaching and high-end equipment usage that provides youth an opportunity in the sport - and, as the program grows, leads to excellence in other endurance sports. Donelson's background, and that of his wife Tamara (Tam), an elite Xterra triathlete, consists of a passionate avocation towards sports and the outdoors.
Both come from a background of ski racing and coaching. Both are personal trainers, leading the cycling and fitness programs and classes at the Athletic Club at The Westin. Both are certified ski instructors, race coaches, USA Cycling and USA Triathlon coaches and both bring a wealth of knowledge from coaching kids and ski athletes for decades.
Brett's passion is recreational 12- and 24-hour mountain bike racing and Tam's is Xterra triathlons. Tam is a former regional, national and world amateur Xterra champion. She recently turned pro.
Three years ago, they sought to offer their love of mountain biking to some of the teenage girls in the Vail Valley who were otherwise unable to afford that opportunity. This led them to developing a program called the Ells Angels, with the Vail Valley Foundations' educational arm, The Youth Foundation. This is a nonprofit youth development mountain bike team that they started in 2010.
Donelson knows there are many fans and supporters of the Ells Angels team.
"I just want to create the awareness that the Ells Angels program and youth cycling development in general is now under the umbrella of The Cycle Effect," Donelson said. "I am actively looking to work with sponsors, advertisers and supporters to expand this program in 2013. We are finalizing our bike sponsor now and some other great organizations are stepping up to help. How great will it be when kids that work hard, and regardless of their backgrounds, get opportunities to enrich and benefit their lives while riding a bike and embodying that which the Rocky Mountain outdoor lifestyle represents - health, wellness and personal growth?"
Applications and an informational night will be held in mid-January 2013 with participants from throughout the Vail Valley and Summit County. Races will be held throughout the state.
The Cycle Effect will have volunteer opportunities in all aspects from coaches, office administration, fundraising, chaperones, and mentors, etc. The Donelsons are actively looking for partnerships with local businesses, donors and the media. To get involved, or for more information, go to firstname.lastname@example.org