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TPR Lifeline: Earn A Bike Battles Childhood Obesity

An innovative program to inspire healthy living involves kids and bicycles. Earn A Bike is a San Antonio non-profit that’s tacking the childhood obesity problem in a unique way, providing a fun piece of fitness equipment to people who might never be able to buy a bike on their own. Bioscience-Medicine reporter Wendy Rigby talked to Cristian Sandoval, the founder and executive director of Earn A Bike.

Rigby: Mr. Sandoval, when was Earn A Bike opened and what is your mission?

Sandoval: Earn A Bike is an organization, a non-profit organization. We’re committed to reducing childhood obesity in San Antonio. We opened in 2001. June of 2011.

Credit Cristian Sandoval / Earn A Bike
Earn A Bike
Earn A Bike relies on volunteers to fix up adults and child bicycles, sort parts, and organize and clean the shop.


How can Earn A Bike help reduce childhood obesity in San Antonio?

Earn A Bike started working specifically with childhood obesity four years ago. Initially, we started as a regular bicycle co-op, your traditional bicycle co-op that you would find in any major city. Our idea was to try to get people that like bicycles the tools and the skills necessary to maintain their bicycles and keep active. But little by little we started noticing that there was a need. And the need was to try to get kids that were inactive out there, getting them to the parks, getting them out there on the creeks and having fun. And we noticed that the bicycle was an amazing tool to actually do it. And our focus started shifting to try to help those kids get those bikes.

How can getting a child a bicycle actually help change their life?

A bicycle helped change my life. Let’s start there. When I was a little kid, well, my father died when I was ten and I was basically doing nothing at home like many of the kids that you find out there in lower income communities. Having nothing to do and also my mother working, I started trying to find out how to keep myself busy. And that’s how I found a bicycle. And a bicycle kept me out of trouble. I used to ride to my friend’s house, just be alone riding and enjoying the weather, running through creeks. And that made me happy. And probably that’s what kept me from falling into temptations of doing other things that were not appropriate.

Because in a sense, a bicycle equals a little bit of freedom.

It equals freedom. It equals happiness, joy, anything that you want to. I think that most of the people that might be hearing us right now would probably identify, remember a special bicycle moment. We all have a bicycle moment. And those are the moments that actually change us.

How do kids earn a bike?

You come in and you work 12 hours. So, let’s assume you want a bike. You can’t afford buying one. You would come in to earn a bike and then I would tell you ‘Well, what bike do you like? I like that one. Alright, you know, help me out here this first time.” We’ll basically start people working with small stuff that can get us to trust each other like organizing parts, or being able to label tubes, or putting things in different locations. Then we’ll start teaching them how to fix their bikes and once they’re proficient in doing so, then they can actually start working on the bike that they want to earn.

Like many people listening, I have a couple of pretty old bikes in my garage. Is that the kind of thing that you might be looking for? Can we donate our bicycles to your cause?

Those are the bikes that we need – bicycles that are well kept, that have been in the garage for many years. Probably no one’s using them. They just need a pair of tubes and we can get them into kids’ hands.

How do we get those to you?

The best way is we have several partners. We have REI as a great partner of ours. You can drop your bikes there. Ride Away Bicycles is another great location to stop in. Performance Bicycle as well. Or at our 1023 North Pine Street location.

And that’s the Ella Austin Community Center?

That’s the Ella Austin Community Center. And we’re about to open a second location at CAM on McCullough. That’s the Christian Assistance Ministries. We’ll be opening there in October. And that will be an amazing location as well because we’re going to get bicycles to people in need.

Tell us about your upcoming fundraising event.

Yes. We’re super excited about our Pedal Party. So that’s creative people coming up with great names. We’re combining several artists from San Antonio to come in. And they’re designing all these art pieces based on bicycles. You’re going to be able to come in and participate in an auction to get those pieces out there. We have a couple of bamboo bikes that are going to be displayed. Really, really cool stuff.

What’s the date?

The date is September 28th. That’s a Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

And this is at the Blue Star, Brick at the Blue Star. And I understand it’s $65 a person.

$65 a person but it’s going to be an amazing time. Great food, great friends, amazing items. And everything can be found at our earnabikecoop.org website.

You know, I saw on your website where it says the idea is to arm children with a wellness tool that will last a lifetime. I really like that. Is that your philosophy that this is a skill they can still be using when they’re 45, 65 years old?

This is a tool that they should be using when they’re 65 years old.

Cristian Sandoval, founder and executive director of Earn A Bike, thanks for being here.

Thank you.

Wendy Rigby is a San Antonio native who has worked as a journalist for more than 25 years. She spent two decades at KENS-TV covering health and medical news. Now, she brings her considerable background, experience and passion to Texas Public Radio.