Nancy Blake

Wasilla, AK

“My favorite part of the whole process was watching my idea come together, with enthusiastic community support, and now have kids feel SO POSITIVE about their ability to actually RIDE a BIKE!!”

Nancy Blake is the Physical Education Specialist for Goose Bay Elementary School in Wasilla, AK. Nancy took the initiative to make Goose Bay the FIRST school in the state of Alaska to teach kindergartners how to ride a  bike in school via the All Kids Bike Kindergarten PE Program. We connected with Nancy to learn how she made it possible.

Nancy applied for a grant through the Mat-Su Health Foundation to help fund the Kindergarten PE Program. The Mat-Su Health Foundation strives for healthy aging, families, minds, and futures. Nancy was able to apply for and receive the grant to provide students the opportunity to learn to ride with the Kindergarten PE Program.

In addition, Nancy was able to partner with Kids Kupboard, who provides meals for local youth under 18 years old. Through the collaboration, kids were able to eat and ride through these summer-extension programs.

How did you find and connect with Mat-Su Health Foundation to fund this project?

MSHF is an amazing community resource. However, it is NOT a funding mechanism for schools. These grants are to support programs that are outside of our schools. I wrote the grant for the bikes to create a learn-to-ride program that will work in conjunction with another nonprofit organization, Kids Kupboard. Kids Kupboard provides free lunches to all children in our Mat-Su Borough, up to age 18. Many schools are sites for these free lunch programs, so my grant was intended to coordinate the 20-week instruction with the free lunch program: Eat & Ride! My plan is to create a cadre of PE teachers to host these two-week programs during the summer at their school site. Because of the restrictions put in place last summer due to the coronavirus, I was not able to begin the program last summer. I am hoping to start it this summer! (Of course, since I wrote the grant and store the bikes at  my school, I happily use them as part of my PE program!) 

How easy was it to apply for funds? How long did it take (application, receive funds)?

From idea to application, to review, to acceptance, to receiving the gear, it took approximately five months. The process itself (the grant application) is not difficult at all. If you have done all of your homework, the application takes less than an hour to complete online. 

What was your favorite part of the whole process?

My favorite part of the whole process was watching my idea come together, with enthusiastic community support, and now have kids feel SO POSITIVE about their ability to actually RIDE a BIKE!! I actually called parents of children who started out very nervous in the beginning when their balance and coordination finally “clicked” and they pedaled their bike independently for the first time! I called them before their child got home from school so that they could make a big deal about their child’s accomplishment! Those were my FAVORITE phone calls to make this year!!! Our local high school’s woodshop teacher had his students build the portable bike racks out of materials that were donated by our local home improvement stores. I love how the community supports this program!

Did you celebrate with your community?

Our statewide television news station approached me to follow the journey of creating the program, but due to coronavirus, it all kind of fell away. When we finally start the summer program, I will be sure to reach out and get some fun attention for the program from our local news agencies (television, public radio, newspaper), as well as our elected officials. 

 

Thanks to Nancy’s dedication and hard work, she is responsible for over 2,000 students learning how to ride! Learn how other schools met their fundraising goals and other success stories by checking out the All Kids Bike fundraising toolkit.

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