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Sunflower and NICA Committed to Getting Kids on Bikes

By: Page Heller  August 22, 2020

The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) was founded in 2009 and develops mountain biking programs for student-athletes across the United States. NICA'S mission is to build strong minds, bodies, character, and communities through cycling. Their vision is that every youth is empowered to be part of a thriving and engaged cycling community. NICA values fun, inclusivity, equity, respect, and community.

Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop is a locally owned and operated business in Downtown Lawrence, Kansas. The shop has been recognized as one of the Nation’s Best Bike Shops, as selected by the National Bicycle Dealers Association and Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. Sunflower offers clothing, equipment, and services.

We got the opportunity to talk to Tina Khan, NICA Kansas League Director, and Dan Hughes, the owner of Sunflower Outdoor & Bike shop, to learn more about the matching grant for NICA.

Can you provide some background on NICA and your involvement?

Tina: I have been building our NICA state league for the past two years with an advisory board. NICA is a nonprofit aimed at getting more kids on bikes, the President and CEO of NICA is Steve Matous. Our mission is all about character development, comradery, and teamwork, and is for riders from sixth to 12th grade. The NICA motto is we celebrate everybody from the start line to the finish line, this is really important, developmentally for the adolescent levels. We are creating the next generation of cyclists, as we age out we want our cycling community to grow and for kids to be able to find all of the positives that you can really get from being on a bike. We certainly focus on health and wellness, but also this idea of teamwork and of no man left behind.

What is Sunflower's connection to NICA?

Dan: The Sunflower connection to NICA is that everyone on the staff at Sunflower, is or has been a rider of some sort and I think everybody that is a rider of my generation looks back at his or her high school days and says, I really wish there had been a program like that when I was in high school. I found my way to riding on my own, but I wish there had been a structure because riding is such a huge part of all of our lives at this point. I will use football as an example of how cycling is different than other sports and its impact on our youth. You have a kid who gets on the football team and then they play in high school and maybe they play in college, then at a certain point, they don't play football anymore. Whereas cycling, it becomes a thread that connects pretty much your entire life. I hope to be riding my bike for another 40 years and I have been riding it for 35 already. NICA is in over 30 States and it is Kansas’ time now.

Why is it important to get kids on bikes?

Dan: I want to see kids getting outside more and away from staring at screens. On a personal level, I found cycling in high school and it has been such a defining part of how I think of myself now. I was a rider before I was a husband, I was a rider before I was a father, I was a rider before I was a business owner or any other label. Riding bikes can be a health thing, it can be a competitive thing, it can be so all-encompassing. To expose kids to cycling at a young age where it gets ingrained in them that they are a rider and that is who they are is important.

Why did Sunflower want to help NICA with a $100,000 matching grant?

Dan: We want the contribution to help maximize NICA and really give the league a solid one- or two-year footing to go and execute on the multiple things that are on Tina's NICA to-do list. The match is designed to help provide resources and leverage that money to something bigger and better.

Tina: We have worked on building NICA in Kansas for two years and we just realized it takes a village and we cannot do it alone, and this is a statewide initiative. What better partner than Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop? They have such a strong position with bikes and the community.

What specifically will the grant go towards?

Tina: Our first year of operation we are still working on on-boarding and development with national NICA to implement their training model. We are focused on implementing technical things; equipment to suffice, a venue production, getting coaches and teams registered, and trained with all the coach licensing, recruitment for kids, being engaged with schools. All the things we have to do to go across the state including travel and talking with school superintendents. There are a lot of technical boxes this first year. With the equipment side of things, once we get that equipment, it will carry forward to the next few years and only need to be replaced every once in a while.

Now, let's get more kids on bikes!

If you are interested in supporting the mission to get more kids on bikes and seeing your donation doubled dollar for dollar by Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, please visit here and consider donating before the August 25th deadline:

Photos Courtesy of Kansas NICA and Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop