The Northwestern Middle School Parent Committee plans to add biking to the physical education curriculum through the "Wheels of Thanks" program.
"The numerous mental and physical benefits of bicycling really are extraordinary," said Becky Landwehr, a member of the parent group. "The reduction of stress, the cardiovascular benefits, just being able to take in what this rural setting has to offer. I'm excited for our kids to have this opportunity."
Their goal is to provide 30 bikes and helmets for the school. The bikes would be used around the school at first, then along back roads in the area. It would get the students out in the fresh air and let them explore the community.
"I wanted to give the kids something different," said Pete Lawton, physical education teacher. "Every kid likes to ride bikes."
The Maple School District's footprint stretches from Hawthorne to Iron River, Lakeside to Lake Nebagamon. The program would give students from these areas a chance to ride bike together, Lawton said. And students without biking skills could learn with one-on-one help from teachers.
When the idea was first presented to the parent group, they reached out on Facebook for bike donations. One family donated a used bike.
The parent group contacted the Superior Police Department about abandoned bikes they receive, but due to restrictions those bikes couldn't be donated.
"Wheels of Thanks" was developed as a way for both businesses and individuals to pitch in.
Sponsors can fund a bike and helmet, half a bike, or just a helmet, at levels that range from $150 to $35. Used bikes in good condition are also being accepted. Lawton said some students might enjoy maintaining and fixing up any used bikes that come in.
Parents have taken sponsorship forms to their workplaces and are visiting area businesses to ask for their support.
"Our hope is to have the bikes collected by spring," Landwehr said.
Current sponsors include Wherley Moving Systems, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Misty Hildreth of Young Living and Patti's Dockside in Lake Nebagamon.
The parent group meets monthly to review a list of needs and wishes submitted by Northwestern Middle School staff.
"We have filled all sorts of needs, from volunteering time to donating pencils, erasers, binders and most recently snow sleds," Landwehr said.
Lawton said the parents group is fantastic, and the kids are excited about the possibility of adding biking to their physical education options.
"To me, it's much more than bikes or sleds," Landwehr said. The group wants teachers and student to know they're supported and community participation in education "is crucial," she said.
For information on sponsoring a bike, email Landwehr@live.com or call Northwestern Middle School at (715) 364-2218 and ask for Lawton or Principal Tanya Krieg.