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When we started the Axel Project almost two years ago we were just rolling with it. We wanted to see kids happy, healthy and enjoying bike riding. As we’ve gotten out to many events and interacted with thousands of children and their families we started to come up with the idea of bringing bike into the schools. With our target market (2-5 yrs old) the bikes are small to transport and store and kids are at a critical age to either embrace physical activity and a love for learning or get swept into other things like video games and completing worksheets that do little to encourage and instill the love of learning or physical activity.

What we’ve come up with is RideTime. We introduced it to our local school in late December and have schools lined up for the Spring in Colorado. Take a look at what we’re doing below, then share with your local teachers and schools so we can get RideTime moving!

What is RideTime?

RideTime provides bicycles, helmets, and educational materials to schools so they can introduce children to STEM concepts (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) by using bicycles and physical play in their Pre-K and Kindergarten curriculum. RideTime is incorporated into the child’s day just like story time, lunch time, and nap time.

Why RideTime?

Studies have shown that play in the early years enhances developmental, emotional, and social growth. With RideTime kids have an opportunity to ride bikes and do hands-on learning activities. RideTime is both fun and meaningful.

According to Lets Move! thirty years ago, most children led lives that kept them at a healthy weight. Kids walked to and from school every day, ran around at recess, participated in gym class, and played for hours after school before dinner. Today, children experience a very different lifestyle. Walks to and from school have been replaced by car and bus rides. Gym class and after-school sports have been cut; afternoons are now spent with TV, video games, and the internet.

It’s important that children have access to the experiences and tools that help them stay active and enjoy learning as they enter elementary school and beyond. We believe bikes are a simple, fun and practical learning tool to staying active and healthy and we believe that introducing them to bikes at an early age helps create lifelong healthy habits.

Learning and instilling these basic skills early will get them riding on two wheels—with their friends, their family and forever.

What will Axel Project Donate?

Bicycles, helmets, safety materials, 6 lessons (Developed by Strider Bikes), copies of Zoom! children’s book

Sample RideTime Day

Axel Project delivers the materials above and spends a day with teachers/students.

Safety Activity with Flash Cards: Skills: Helmet safety, bike safety, riding safety (10 min)

Engineering Introduction: Bike Building Kids build felt PB&J sandwiches/Adult builds bike. Skills: Following directions, figuring out why order is important, thinking about reasoning, recognizing the importance of tools (30 min)

Bike Riding Fun: Follow the Leader and more! Skills: Starting and stopping, bike handling, confidence, teamwork (30 min+)

Wrap- Up: Free play riding time, Zoom! book reading (10 min)

Additional Lessons

Axel Project leaves each school with instructions and materials to complete additional lessons.

Lesson 2: Protect your melon! Technology: Shock absorption

Lesson 3:  Our bikes in motion! Science: Experimenting with friction

Lesson 4:  Are we there yet? Math: Estimating and measuring distance

Lesson 5: Ramp it up! Simple physics: Speed and acceleration

Lesson 6:  Art: Fine motor skills

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In those early days of grief we knew we wanted to do something special and positive to help others with the donations we were receiving. The Axel Project was born out of Axel’s love for his balance bike and our families passion around cycling. Over the past year and a half we have been healing, rebuilding, and reconnecting. Through this, a new program has emerged that we’ll roll out in 2015 called RideTime.

No matter what the experts say there is no instruction manual for grief – you have to find your own path through it. For us that involves a lot of biking. Biking has been our form of therapy. It has kept us living in the present, brought us joy, kept us healthy and reconnected us to the world. I admired Kalden in those early days after Axel died.  Kids are so resilient and even when they are sad they focus on what is happening now, not yesterday or next week. They do what brings them joy and brings joy to others. So Kalden rode his bike a lot and told us that Axel was riding right along with him. And when we started doing events for Axel Project watching the joy kids have by simply riding around on two wheels was both healing and inspiring. They don’t care about learning to bike or the bike itself it’s about the joy of exploring, the thrill of freedom, and being enthusiastic about life.

Every child needs the opportunity for some RideTime. Time in the day where they can have some thrills, gain confidence, and let their physical side go without a lot of rules or instructions on how to play. Biking is not just for athletic kids or city hipsters. Every child can connect to the world and their inner athlete when presented the opportunity to explore on two wheels. And when kids ride bikes it encourages their parents to get out as well by either running along side them or going on family bike rides.

Childhood use to be all about riding bikes but now kids are faced with organized sports at a younger age, more sitting time in school, homework, video games, TV, and roads that are too dangerous to use. One in three children are obese* before their fifth birthday  RideTime introduces kids 2-5 to the bike early so that they have that positive connection as they grow. H.G Wells said, “Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.” True but there is even more hope when we see kids on bikes.

So what exactly is RideTime? We’ll work closely with preschools, day cares and after school programs to provide them both bikes and an atmosphere where they carve out time to ride. There’s Storytime, Naptime and now RideTime! We’ll leverage the great work Strider Bikes has done with Strider Camps, provide bikes, helmets, cones, instructor manuals and lots of ideas.

Thank you to all that have donated, attended our ride or purchased from our store. We need your continued support of the Axel Project and it’s mission so we can get RideTime going across the country and eventually the world. To date we have donated 150 bikes and introduced thousands of kids to two wheels at events across the country. Every child deserves to stride into the future with confidence, a healthy body, and joy!

We are starting to work with the first school next week. We’ll keep you updated with posts and pictures.

Axelove!

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*CDC

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We were in Fruita this past weekend, we have not been here in about 5 months. We were taking a bit of a break from this place because we literally spent 2 weeks camped out here when Jen was pregnant with Lars because we were delivering in Grand Junction. Fruita to Grand Junction is 15 minutes where as Ridgway to Grand Junction is 2 hours!

Today I was riding with a friend of mine, they were here with there 4 year old daughter and she was riding a trail called Kessels Run for the first time on her pedal bike. Seeing her and all the other families out here with little ones brought back so many memories we made here with Axel.

Fruita was the first stop when we set out on our ‘grand adventure’ to Mexico. We spent about a week here, hanging out and doing some great riding. Axel was getting really good on his Strider Bike so we decided he was ready to take it for a spin down Kessels run. To say I misjudged the trail for him might be an understatement. He actually did pretty well but had 2 spills (minor, no damage) and by the halfway point he looked right at me, said “DONE” dropped his bike and started walking down the trail. There was no talking him back on. That memory still brings a huge smile to my face.  We still had a ways to go so this is how we finished up.
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I have so many great memories of the time we shared with Axel and a bunch of them happened right here in Fruita.
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As many of you know Jen runs another blog called Pedal Adventures. She posted this a while back and I really liked it:

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“Tell me more about your son,” said a man named Axel yesterday at our Axel Project booth at the USA Pro Challenge in Aspen. He came by because he saw the name and he wanted to know more about our Axel and share the Hebrew history of the name. We shared stories about Axel, the inspiration for our booth, and he shared with us that in his family the name Axel means at peace with the father. I knew Axel meant father of peace but I had never heard it explained as ‘at peace with the father.’ I was really touched by this man being so compassionate and taking time out of his busy day (he was working at the tour) to share this with us. And it brings comfort to think of his name this way… that he indeed is at peace and watching over us in some way, sending this Axel to us to share and remember him.

It’s easy to be sad, focus on the negative and the haters but it’s also easy to see happiness all around because once you know true sadness, evil, and hardship you know that happiness lies very close to sadness. Simple gestures by people bring smiles, a kind word brings tears, and something as simple as a bike ride makes you happy. True happiness does not happen in sunny fields, it happens after reflection in dark places.

A huge part of why I enjoy doing events for the Axel Project are moments like these. To connect with others who are brave enough to speak up and share. Right after Axel came by another man came up to me to share the story about his son Max. Max died a few weeks before Axel at 17 months. He died in his crib for no apparent reason. He was a happy toddler, walking and thriving one day and gone the next.

There are no words either of us could offer each other but as our other children rode around on bikes with huge smiles we knew that joy lives very close to tragedy.

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A breathtaking charity ride over the Dallas Divide from Ridgway to Telluride and back. One of the most spectacular journeys you can take on a bike with 5,000 ft of total climbing, thin air, and epic descents. All proceeds benefit the Axel Project and their mission to introduce bicycles and a healthy lifestyle to kids and families.

For more information visit: Axel Project Bicycle Classic

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We just completed our first event of 2014! We’ve got the Strider Adventure Zone setup pretty dialed now but for this event we added snow and the new Strider Ski attachments to all of our free demo bikes. The day started early for us, getting up and making the 2 hour drive up to Powderhorn Ski Resort.

IMG_0483Once we got set up curious parents and kids alike started to come by and the fun began:

This little guy looked all business!

DCIM100GOPROAfter running the free Adventure Zone from 10AM – 2PM we then transitioned over to races. We held a race class for each age 2-5 years old and everyone one had a blast. The kids flying around the track while the parents cheered on with their Strider cow bells!

Two of our 3 year old lined up and ready for action!

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Our sole competitor in the 2 year old race, he chose to receive his award on his bike rather than the podium.

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Our 3 year old’s podium.

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4 year old podium – Our second place finisher refused to get off her Strider to come up and receive her award. She may still be riding around there!

DCIM100GOPROAnd finally the 5 year old’s who already know how to work a podium photo!

DCIM100GOPROA  huge thanks to Powderhorn Ski resort for inviting us out and Strider Bikes for putting them in touch with us. Hope to see you again next year!

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I’d like to say I spent Feb 28th reflecting on Axel’s life and remembering all the good times we had with him but the fact is I don’t need to set one day aside for that, I spend everyday thinking about Axel and how he made our life a little crazier and a whole lot better.

I woke up on the 28th a bit apprehensive as to how the day would go. Would my day be consumed with thoughts of Axel’s last day? Would I just be in a ‘lazy funk?’

Well, my decision was made for me well in advance. The day started off with a conference call with all the players involved in our Axel Project Bicycle Classic (CDOT, State Patrol, Town of Ridgway, etc..). It turns out the rock slide that happened earlier this winter has created a long term mess and CDOT has big plans for work on Red Mountain Pass during the time we planned to run our bike tour over it. The Governor of Colorado even declared a disaster emergency this week on the pass. So after much discussion we have decided to reroute the ride and make it a round trip to Telluride with a shorter option to Placerville. Not a bad alternative, right? There are still amazing climbs and views of the entire San Juan Skyway while riding up and over the Dallas Divide. We will work over the next week to get the website updated with the new route. All registration information and pricing is the same.

While dealing with the ride reroute we also launched the Kickstarter for our amazing new childrens book ZOOM! We are so excited to finally have this book moving forward. Zoom! is a book about a little boy discovering the world around him on his balance bike. He has a big brother and a dog that join in and he is based on Axel. Axel loved to rip around on his Strider and I think this book is going to be a wonderful tribute to him. Currently we are over half way to meeting our kickstarter funding goal of $8000. If you have not seen our video yet click here and please support this project.

~Randy

The beauty of the Dallas Divide

The beauty of the Dallas Divide

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It was Feb 28th 2013, the waves were firing that day at La Lancha. We had discovered this surf spot a month earlier and since we had our truck and it was only a short drive it was our go to spot with perfect waves for us. We’d only been there about an hour when another surfer came paddling out frantically yelling “Colorado – Colorado!!” Yes, that’s us we replied. Something has happened with your son, you need to get back and go to the hospital. We had a frantic paddle in. Which son was it? What hospital? As we got to the beach we could see Kalden there with two women (our neighbors). They told us Axel ‘fell’ in the pool and was pulled out unconscious but they think he is ok. “Get to the hospital in San Pancho, QUICK!” We ran the 1/4 mile up a dirt path back to the road jumped in the truck and took off. The whole time we are saying, he’s gotta be fine, they got him out.

It took us about 20 minutes to get to the hospital and once there they had to locate the doctor that spoke english as we waited. Finally he came out, brought us into an office and gave us the news that buckled our legs, Axel was dead. We were allowed to see him, he was on a hospital bed covered in a white sheet, we hugged him, kissed him and sobbed uncontrollably. Though I remember that moment like it was yesterday, it is still unimaginable to me.

And how do you move out of a moment like that? How do you leave your dead child behind and return to any sort of routine?

In what I suppose was our first step towards the Axel Project we left all of Axel’s toys, clothes, and Chariot there and they were donated to a local orphanage.

The following day, trying to put a bit of normalcy back in Kalden’s life we took him to the beach for a few hours and let him go surfing. Jen and I spent a lot of time walking up and down the beach trying to process everything.

We made it home to the open arm’s of our community devastated but with a massive support group. Over the next few months we pieced our lives back together adjusting to the new ‘normal’ and started the Axel Project.

During this month leading up to the one-year anniversary of Axel’s death I find myself unbelievably sad and also filled with guarded happiness. We are having a baby boy in May, a baby that is currently kicking and growing and can now even open his eyes. He is alive while his brother is dead. What to do with this reality?

One year later not much has happened in the criminal case. About 3 months after Axel was raped and murdered the Mexican Police released a DNA report which clearly showed they found Axel’s blood on the man’s cloths. However, he has “appealed his arrest”. Our lawyer assures us this is normal and there is no problem it just needs to go through the process. Both he and the sitter remain in jail awaiting a trial.

The world remains unsafe but yet there are miracles, light and happiness all around. It’s not a coincidence that today we launch our Kickstarter campaign for our children’s book. A ray of light in the darkness. If you have not had a chance to support the Axel Project yet please go over there today and contribute. You can support us with as little as $5.

 

Axel was born February 15, 2011- he would have been 3 years old today.

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Axel was born with Hemolytic disease. Basically his blood type was incompatible with Jen’s and his red blood cells were being attacked by Mom’s antibodies. After a few tense days and some major time under the “light” to treat his jaundice all was better.

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Kalden loved his new little brother!

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Eventually all was well and he got to start his new life in the world.

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At 1 year old Axel made his first international trip to Costa Rica.

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It was clear early on that he loved the beach and just like us, loved to travel!

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Axel celebrated his first birthday in Costa Rica.

Once back in the States he was always content hanging out with big brother and learning how to keep up. By 15 months he was on his Strider chasing Kalden around!

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Kalden and Axel were best buddies on and off the bike. Kalden use to tell us he dreamed of one day racing bikes with Axel as his teammate.

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Our trip to Mexico was the culmination of years of “practice” trips. Making sure we could live and work on the road. We were all excited about our big adventure and no one was happier to be back on the beach than the Boys!

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Axel was murdered on Feb 28th 2013, just 13 days after his 2nd Birthday. The night before we had done a photo shoot in town and got these incredible images to keep as a memory.

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We have so many amazing memories from our short time with Axel. There isn’t a day that goes by when he hasn’t entered my mind hourly and I truly hope to keep it that way!

Happy Birthday little buddy……………..Dad

 

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What a horrible word, right? You don’t often think about death until it happens to someone you love. At that moment when you are faced with that insurmountable loss – it all changes. What really does happen to us when we die? Are we simply gone? Or is there a greater power than us, like a God? When death strikes is he there waiting to accept and comfort them?

Honestly I have no idea and I’m really ok with that. What I do know is that after Axel was killed it profoundly changed the outlook on my life. I’m in NO HURRY to leave this world, I have a wonderful Wife, incredible Son and another on the way. However if I were to be taken tomorrow I can only ‘hope’ Axel is waiting for me on the other side with his arms wide open. A friend of mine who moved to Japan a few years ago sent me this story that was told to him by a Monk. Is it true? Who knows. To me it is no more unbelievable than any other form of worship out there and it really made me feel good reading it. After all, at the end of the day, isn’t that really all we have in the face of death – HOPE.

Dear Jen and Randy,

A  story that I would like to share with you…
It helped me to find some healing at one point in my life. I hope that you guys may be able to find some healing in it as well… This story was told to me in Japanese so it has my own interpretation.

When we were living in Ridgway years before we met you, we were walking in Telluride… From across the street came an Asian man that we would soon realize to be a Japanese Buddhist monk. We initially thought he came over to talk being a fellow Japanese. However in actuality he could tell we were in pain and needed some sort of healing.

He eventually found his way to our home where we shared stories… One of them was this:

He spoke of life in Japan… Temples in Japan come in all shapes and sizes, from the larger ones in Kyoto to the smaller ones in neighborhoods… All of them are outdoors in almost a park setting however clearly a place of worship.
In the center is the main shrine of the temple where most people go to make an offering and pray for something. However around the main shrine are a variety of smaller shrines. These shrines are there for people in need of something a little more specific in their lives.

One of these smaller shrines plays a very important role… It is a shrine with a statue of an older lady with open arms. She plays a very specific role. Her role is to bring in all the children that have left this world too early in their lives. She brings them in and gathers them together. She nurtures and cares for them. But that is not all… she educates them and prepares them for their journey ahead… It’s a fun place for children to learn and enjoy with other children.

Now keep in mind, I’m not a religious man. Hearing words from this monk entered my mind with a grain of salt however I was open minded. I had been to Japan many times and seen the many shrines at all the temples with people coming and going.
It never really hit home however until I lived here. Though it is not especially a busy shrine,  it does get visitors. Both old and young. From young children that have lost a sibling to great grandparents. They come from time to time to make an offering and have a prayer.

That’s when you realize the children aren’t alone.

The journey that is being prepared for is a very important one. One that comes sooner for some and later for others.
For a time will come when this “mother figure” will take Axel by the hand and lead him down a path… A path that leads to a river where they will stand and wait.
For there will be a day when it is time for you to leave this world as well. When you do, you will also come to the rivers edge. As you slowly cross over the river, This mother figure will take Axel’s hand and take him right down to the river’s edge. You will look to the other side and see his smiling face… When you arrive, she will take his hand and place it in yours and you will continue on your journey together.

There are no words that are the “right” words… But I hope you can find some healing.

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