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Perhaps it's not surprising that Trips for Kids volunteer Doug Long notices things that other people don't. After all, he’s an unusual guy.
At 16, Long became the youngest person to bicycle solo across the United States. Later he published a book which became the top seller in its field, translated into five languages. And as an observer the United Nations, Long was actually paid to notice things – in his case, elections in war zones.
But for one Trips for Kids group, it was Long's ability to spot a caterpillar on the side of the trail that was most remarkable.
"It seems like someone had told these kids that anything crawling is bad and shouldn’t be touched – better just stomp on it," said Long. "Well, it's probably good advice, but I knew this to be a safe caterpillar. So I picked it up and showed it to the kids."
As he recalls, first one brave soul was willing to get close and touch it. The she held it. Then all others followed her lead.
Before it was over, said Long, they all saw caterpillars as something to admire and respect. And they left the little guy safely on the side.
It's the little things in our life that are so important – the ones we take for granted. For Long, volunteering with nonprofits like Trips for Kids is one of the great ways to notice the details that we often overlook in our lives.
Trips for Kids was founded in 1998 by avid mountain biker and environmentalist Marilyn Price in Marin County, Calif. Today the organization has helped over 60 groups and individuals launch local chapters across the country.
The organization provides mountain bike rides for disadvantaged youth, many of whom live in inner cities and never experience the beauty of open space that might be just a few miles away. While many of kids the organization helps come from varying background with different needs, they all share one thing in common: they are kids and kids love bikes.
Long, a big bike riding fan, got involved with the Marin chapter after his father, a Trips for Kids volunteer, passed away. "I thought to get involved to keep up the tradition," said Long.
Rides take place four times a week, and volunteers are asked to bring their own bike, helmet, sack lunch and water. Ten kids make up each group, with bikes and gear each kid, and then everyone carpools to the ride site. A specially trained volunteer leads each ride. One recent ride took the kids to the oak hills of China Camp State Park.
Long admits that volunteering with a program like Trips for Kids isn't for everyone, and it's not always easy.
"There are rough spots. We're here to challenge the kids, and sometimes it’s just as much of a challenge for us," he said. "But believe me – you feel a whole lot better at the end of the day. And you get your day's exercise!"
How about you? Didn't know you could get great exercise, see nature, and help make the world a better place all at the same time? It's possible today at VolunteerMatch, where you’ll find tens of thousands of opportunities to give back. Get started today!