The 2022 GIG Ride Breaks Records
We are delighted to inform you that the 2022 Get Into Geerz charity ride was a spectacular success. The annual ride is our flagship fundraiser and we were privileged to shatter all previous records regarding the amount of riders, total funds raised, total raised per rider and corporate sponsorships. The ride itself was magnificent and took place in the deep green hills of Israel's upper Galilee. We were blessed with perfect weather after months of rain, and the euphoria and enthusiasm of the riders was palpable. One hundred riders enjoyed top-notch accomodations, food, pit-stops, support staff, swag, entertainment and amenities. Our riders hailed from all over Israel and we even hosted riders from the United States. The ride has developed into one of the premier cycling activities in Israel and we continue our efforts to set new standards each year. The long months we spent planning every detail of the ride was clearly appreciated by the riders as over two thirds of our riders registered for the 2023 ride within 24 hours after this ride.
The highlight of the event was a deeply moving presentation at the gala dinner about the way Geerz transforms the lives of hundreds of kids each year. The mother of an eleven year old Geerz partcipant spoke, via video presentation, about the impact that Geerz had on her son who had developed severe social anxiety during the covid crisis. A Geerz instructor also spoke about the growth he witnessed with his group in a youth village with special focus on a particularly challenging young man who went from group trouble maker to mentoring the younger kids.
Most importantly, the funds raised by our riders in conjunction with the generous support of donors, such as yourselves, has enabled us to reach our ambitious goal of raising $800,000 for our annual campaign. These funds will enable us to open up a record number of groups and continue our expansion into additional youth villages and Gaza periphery towns.
The 2023 Get Into Geerz Ride is scheduled for March 19-21, 2023. Looking forward to seeing you there.
Much More Than Cycling
One question that we are frequently asked by people who are unfamiliar with Geerz is "how does Geerz differ from other after school sports activities?" It's an excellent question and this article will attempt to shed light on this issue. All sports activities, whether in an individual or group setting, are highly beneficial. There are endless metaphors describing how sports challenges mirror real life challenges. However, what about the kid who is too insecure or anxious to participate in team sports? What if the child lacks the coordination and athletic ability to make his participation a positive rather than humiliating experience? What if the child suffers from a sense of trauma or abandonment and needs the patience and guidance of a genuine mentor? Most Geerz programs are designed for precisely the kind of child who is unlikely to succeed in a standard after-school sports activity.
Geerz doesn't simply put kids on mountain bikes and take them out to conquer the hills. Geerz nurtures, educates and empowers kids via an incredibly innovative curriculum which is constantly being honed and updated. The Geerz program is actually an incredibly effective form of therapy, made all the more effective precisely because it is disguised as the antithesis of therapy. We spare kids the stigma of the therapist's chair and empower them to take responsibility for their lives. The program is designed for kids struggling with issues such as ADHD, PTSD, autism, anxiety, eating disorders, behavioral and family problems. Our multi-faceted program incorporates therapeutic, physical and educational components to address the most pressing issues encountered by troubled youth.
Mountain biking is the ideal vehicle for the this ambitious mission. It is an incredibly challenging activity but one that provides rewarding and discerning progress at every step of the process. The magnificent trails offer a sense of beauty and adventure. Ridng them builds resilience and encourages kids to adopt positive behaviors and surmount obstacles. The Geerz curriculum harnesses this magic by imparting critical life and social skills in the context of a fun, supportive and adventurous environment. Our instructors are not merely bikers, they are educators and mentors. The program effectively addresses a wide range of acute social issues. Geerz has been proven especially effective in helping minority and immigrant youth overcome the formidable challenges of integration and shifting social dynamics. The program and training are condcucted by experienced and dedicated educational professionals, who specialize in both formal and non-formal education. More than 75% of our participants are referred by mental health, medical and education professionals.
Each week, throughout the academic year, the kids head for the trails for a thrilling 90-minute session. Each session includes a progressively more challenging trail ride coupled with skills training. The skills training covers three primary areas: Life skills, riding skills, and mechanical skills. Halfway through the session, our riders pause to rest their bodies and activate their minds. On each ride, a different facet of life is presented, explored and debated. Two to four instructors are dedicated to each group of 8-15 riders for the entire year. The favorable instructor-to-rider ratio allows our staff to give significant personal attention to every rider and enables the kids to build meaningful relationships with highly positive role models. By design, our five-year curriculum is structured to progressively build various strengths, constantly spurring youth to interact and discover their own skills and strengths. Indeed, the vast majority of our participants join the program year after year and this allows us to achieve extraordinary results.
So how effective is Geerz? In a word....VERY. In our most recent end-of-year survey, over 86% of parents indicated that their child’s self-esteem improved significantly due to involvement with Geerz. 85% of parents reported major improvement in their child’s sense of responsibility, and over 90% noted significant improvement in physical fitness. Parents also reported substantial improvements in their children’s social interactions, academic success and positive attitude. One of the proudest measures of our success is the fact that more than half of our assistant instructors are former Geerz riders themselves, who have committed to give back to the community while earning income for the first time in their lives.
For the hundreds of kids that we serve each year, Geerz is not merely a great activity, it is life transforming. Read more on our website about why mountain biking is so effective.
A Geerz Instructor's Testimonial
Recently, I had the privilege of running a Geerz group in the Neve Landy Youth Village for boys. These villages are basically a lot like orphanages. The kids have been separated from their families by the court, and the resulting issues that virtually all of these kids struggle with on a daily basis is almost crushing. Working with these kids has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Our sessions completely energize these kids and give them a sense of empowerment, happiness and accomplishment. It is truly something to behold.
The range of things that we discuss during these Geerz sessions is mind blowing! Conversations about why it isn't ok to just pick fruit from a farmers field, or that protected flowers (kalaniot) should not be damaged or picked. Of course we discuss why it's important to stop and help a fellow rider if they're injured or have a technical problem.
One boy in particular stands out to me from that group. This kid and I have gone head to head many times, particularly in our first year together. He didn't care what anyone thought, he did whatever he wanted and he really made my job as the group's instructor a supreme challenge every single ride.
One day, I saw him throw his empty bottle into the woods. In response, I gathered the group together and had a conversation about littering, how it impacts our time riding, how a bottle under some sand on a trail could cause us to fly off our bike if we slid out on it, and how we love and respect the forest we ride in and how awful it would look if it were covered in bottles and candy wrappers.
Well, the next week, this boy threw his bottle into the woods again. I stopped to pick it up and made him take it back to the youth village to throw out. The week after that, he threw a bottle into the woods yet again, and by now, I really didn't know what to do. So I simply collected the bottle, and after the ride, I asked to speak with him. I told him that we had discussed littering as a group, and I had nicely asked him not to litter while we were riding. I told him that I really needed him to remember this lesson. So I gave him a task, which he obviously saw as a punishment.
I told him to collect no less than 10 water bottles from the sides of the trails while we rode next week, and that if he didn't comply, I would have to talk to his Madrich (counselor) at the youth village. He grumbled, and said "no way, you can't tell me what to do!"
Well, the next week, he showed up with a bulging backpack, and when i asked to look inside I found 10 pre-packed empty water bottles already waiting and ready. I asked him to please put them into the recycling bin, and that I expected him to collect 10 more bottles by the end of the ride. I was shocked when he actually collected and gave me the bottles when we finished. While we put them into the recycling bin together, I told him that I was very impressed and proud of his maturity in doing the task, and amused at his cleverness trying to get around it.
That same boy, is now an assistant with a group of younger boys from his youth village, and he loves it. He really helps push the boys forward, and give them confidence. They look up to him, and from what his Madrichim tell me, he's also been helping them out in the day to day outside of Geerz.
It's incredible, and heartwarming, to know that this boy, who really made my every ride a challenge, is now a role model for boys. He knows where these kids are coming from and how to get through to them because he has been there. This once rebellious, nearly impossible kid is now working hard to get a Teudat Bagrut (high school diploma), and doing other extra credit work in school. He has gone from being chief trouble maker to becoming a role model for younger boys who have rarely had consistent role models in their lives. Maybe, most importantly of all, this young man has become such a mencsh. He calls me sometimes for advice and the connection that we share is just amazing.
Now, every organization has its success stories and telling you how one specific kid totally transformed his life through Geerz may be inspiring but it doesn’t really prove that much. Well, I’m here to tell you this. I work with these kids each and every week and I get to know them very well. And here’s the thing. The story I just shared about the kid with the bottles is only one story of many. Every one of these kids is a world on to himself and every single kid, without exception, emerges from Geerz transformed in a real and powerful manner. You can see it in the way they look at you, you see by the way they interact with others. These are not the same angry and insecure kids that I encountered in our first session. Sure, there are many challenges that lie ahead for these kids. But, they are so much better equipped to confront these challenges now, life is filled with many more possibilities.
No, it's definitely not easy, finding a way to connect with kids from difficult backgrounds. Sometimes they're scared, sometimes they are angry, often it has nothing to do with something that the instructor did or said. Often, they are bringing their emotions and baggage from their daily lives. Geerz has taken me on a journey of growth and discovery. Not only has it allowed me to help kids grow and prosper, but it has empowered me to grow and become more like the person I strive to be every day. At Geerz, there's no end to the changes we can make in these kids' lives….and our own!
~Eliav Polly, Geerz Instructor
A Sample Geerz Lesson
Goal: Understand the importance of performing a pre-ride bike check
- A quick safety check should be done of the bicycle before each ride. ABCD should take less than 1 minute. It is up to each rider to make sure that their bike is in good working order – with your help.
- Before each ride, a bike check should be performed as a group activity. It is a way for the Instructor to review what their riders know.
- A-air: Are the tires properly pumped? Do they spin freely?
- B-brakes: Are the brakes in working order? When you apply pressure on the brakes does it stop the tire from spinning freely? Never start if you can’t stop!
- C-chain: Do the chain or cables need oiling? Is the derailleur shifting properly?
- D-drink: Do they have proper water? (1.5 liters)
Story: The Battle of the Beetles
On the slope of Long’s Peak in Colorado lies the ruin of a gigantic tree. Naturalists tell us that it stood for some four hundred years. It was a seedling when Columbus landed at San Salvador, and half grown when the pilgrims settled at Plymouth.
During the course of its long life it was struck by lightning fourteen times and the innumerable avalanches and storms of four centuries shook it. It survived them all. In the end, however, an army of beetles attacked the tree and leveled it to the ground. The insects ate their way through the bark and gradually destroyed the inner strength of the tree by their tiny but incessant attacks. A forest giant, which age had not withered, nor lightning blasted, nor storms subdued, fell at last before beetles so small that a man could crush them between his forefinger and his thumb.
There is a parallel in this story which should serve as a warning to us. Most of us can survive times of crisis. We summon the strength of faith or resolve for most any battle that we face head on. Whether it is in our professional or personal lives, we often overcome great obstacles. It is the small things like jealousy, anger, resentment, pettiness and negativity that eat us from the inside, which often bring about our downfall. Unlike a giant tree, we can identify and fight those moral or ethical “beetles.” We must, however, be constantly on guard.
Lesson & Connection: One may think, I don’t have to do the ABCD’s every time I ride. I just did it a few days ago, but remember the Beatles! It’s the little things that can take you down.