North Philadelphia kids preparing for big bike ride alongside police

Families Behind the Badge Children's Foundation began partnering with area police departments eight years ago.

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Wednesday, July 13, 2022
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A group of boys in North Philadelphia will help raise money for Families Behind the Badge Children's Foundation by biking to the shore alongside police.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Temple Police Officer Leroy Wimberly is content to stay in his lane, literally.

"I don't ride the bike, I ride the van," he said with a laugh.

The bike lane is left for the 10 boys he helps to coach and mentor as part of the Temple University Urban Bike Club, which started last year by reaching out to boys ages 10-14, who live in North Philadelphia.

"My team and I came up with the idea to create something for the kids in the community," said Wimberly.

The outreach wasn't an instant success as some of the neighborhood kids had never heard of such a club with big goals of riding bikes for miles.

"I don't think they believed us at first. They didn't understand exactly what was going to happen," said Monica Hankins, director of external relations for the Temple University Police Department.

The kids admit it was a hard sell.

"At first, I didn't know if I could like ride as much miles as anybody else," said 11-year-old Maurice Coles.

"I first didn't want to do it because I didn't feel like riding a bike," said 11-year-old Syncere Henderson.

But once they got on the bikes, everything changed

"I like when we're riding the bikes, when the wind is blowing in my face, it feels good," said Henderson of the simple pleasure of a bike ride.

That feeling was made possible by the Families Behind the Badge Children's Foundation. The nonprofit focuses on supporting the families of fallen first responders. They also seek to build stronger relationships between the youth and police.

Families Behind the Badge Children's Foundation donated all 10 bikes for the boys to use. They assembled them alongside their mentors and professional bike supervisors. The boys are now training on those bikes, which they get to keep. They learn everything from maintenance to safe riding skills.

"They taught us how to tell people you're going to turn with your left and right," said 13-year-old Symeer Zeigler.

But the program isn't just about riding, it's about relationships.

"We began to connect cops and kids in non-enforcement positive interactions," said Mark O'Connor, the executive director of Families Behind the Badge Children's Foundation.

The organization began partnering with area police departments eight years ago.

"They know that we're a safe outlet for them," Wimberly said of the Temple officers' relationships with kids in the program.

"I think he's a good officer," said Coles who has gotten to know Officer Wimberly.

The boys are working with the Temple officers as they train for their biggest challenge yet: the Ben to the Shore Bike Tour. The Temple officers usually participate in the 65-mile ride. This year, they're bringing the boys as part of the team to participate in a 30-mile ride. They'll raise money for Families Behind the Badge.

"We're starting in Hamilton, New Jersey and we'll end up in Atlantic City," said Hankins.

"I feel like we trained enough. I feel like it's going to be easy for us to do," said 13-year-old Quadir Staton confidently.

It's the kind of confidence they learned in the program.

"(We learned about) choices and chances," said 11-year-old Symier Jarmon. "Like basically making decisions for your life."

Families Behind the Badge Children's Foundation is still registering people to ride alongside the Temple University Police Urban Bike Club in the Ben to the Shore Tour. To register, or to provide support to the team, click here: https://www.fbbcf.org/