I am a firm believer in structured activities for children.   I believe that one of the main reasons so much of the negative behavior that goes on in the black community from generation to generation is due to the refusal by many to break the cycle or mold that they find themselves in.  To break that mold means changing one’s behavior to do something different.

When I was growing up in Cabrini Green, my mom would always send me to summer camp.  I would be gone to Camp Norman B. Barr for one to two weeks.  It was a chance for me to get out of the city and out of the environment that always led to what she dreaded the most-the long hot summer.   It was during that hot summertime when children with too much free time on their hands got into trouble.   Back then the worst that would occur would be that we would fight.  So to put her mind at ease for several weeks, off I would go.

My children never got the experience of going away to camp.  But my son during his tween years did experience the Dortch Enterprise Cycling Voyagers Bicycle Sports camp.  That camp was a major blessing for me.   Every morning my energetic son would awake with the energy that only God could give to a child.   By the time he came back from Bike Camp, he barely could eat dinner, bathe and drag himself off to bed.   Bike camp was the reason. 

What is Bike Camp?   It is the brainchild of former Chicago Park District Supervisor Andrew Dortch.  Picture if you can a group of children all in uniform riding their bikes all over the city.   Based on the weather and what they feel like doing, in one day’s time they can go downtown, visit the museums, Navy Pier, Oak Street Beach and then bike up to Evanston or take a boat ride. If they don’t go downtown, they can head west along the Illinois Prairie Path and explore nature.  No matter what, Bike Camp teaches young children ages 10 – 15 how to ride in the streets, ride as part of a group and most of all have fun in camp while other children their ages are moping around complaining they have nothing to do.   Bike Camp is now in its fifteenth year of touring all over the Chicagoland area on bikes.  

Last Wednesday evening Mr. Dortch stopped by my home.   He was out promoting his camp and he hadn’t seen my son in several years.   The little boy who used to barely come to his belt buckle is now towering over him.  As they sat and reminisced about my son’s days participating in Bike Camp, it was apparent how much my son had enjoyed that experience.   Because of Bike Camp, my son got to visit a number of parks and parts of them that are off the beaten path.  He went places that I as a working mother couldn’t get to most summer days.  Their only limitation in Bike Camp is what they didn’t want to do.

Bike Camp runs from June 20 to July 29.  It goes from 9 am until 5pm.  The only requirement for the camp is that the child has a ten speed or mountain bicycle in good condition.  The children in Bike Camp will learn how to fix and maintain their bikes along with proper safety and riding skills.  Bike Camp costs $165 for the six weeks period and includes their T-Shirts, helmet, lunch and snack, all fees for activities and maintenance and parts for their bikes.  That is a very inexpensive amount to pay to keep your child busy and off the streets over the long summer months.

One of the reasons Mr. Dortch came by to see both my son and me is that he wants to increase his camp by one hundred or more children.  As he sees it, for every 25 new riders, he can hire an older teen who didn’t get a summer job.   Now we can take two kids off the streets and give them both something to do.  Mr. Dortch also has a walking camp for children ages 6 -9. 

To contact Mr. Dortch for further information, give him a call at 773.724.9933. 


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