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Getting kids on the right track

The new bike track at Mount St. Vincent Home, in action, July 9.

Many children arriving at Mount St. Vincent Home have never ridden a bike, and usually it’s because no one has cared enough to teach them. That changes at St. Vincent’s: each child receives a bike and helmet, theirs to keep, and learns to ride under the watchful eye of a staff member.

“We try to teach them those kinds of basic things they haven’t been exposed to,” explained Kirk Ward, clinical director. “Really any kind of day-to-day activity.”

While the children have been riding bikes on the 16-acre campus at 4159 Lowell Blvd. for many years—on driveways and grassy areas—they now have a dedicated 680-foot track in the backyard. The new track, built and donated by volunteers from Saunders Construction, will enhance the existing bicycle program because it provides a larger and safer area for them to learn and practice.

“This bike track is going to be spectacular,” Ward said following a July 9 dedication ceremony. “Because they are having fun, they will want to do it more and more.”

While riding bikes is good exercise, it can also serve as therapy for the children, many of whom have suffered physical or sexual abuse, neglect, struggle with developmental trauma, or have experienced trauma while living with parents in domestic abuse situations. Mount St. Vincent, founded by Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1883, is a leading provider of treatment for children with severe behavioral and emotional challenges due to these types of traumas or mental illness. Services through the non-profit include residential treatment, day treatment, in-home treatment, parent education, an elementary school, and a community early learning center.

“The bike program is two-fold because it’s fun,” Ward said, “and when they’re upset it can be a way to help the kids regulate and calm down.”

It also helps promote brain development, he added, which is part of the focus at Mount St. Vincent’s.

Currently 16 children from 5 to 12 years old reside at the home. The average length of stay is six to seven months, though some children live there for years, depending on their family situation or the availability of a foster family.

The field where the track is located in the same site where St. Pope John Paul II landed in a helicopter when visiting Mount St. Vincent’s in 1993 during Denver’s World Youth Day. Volunteers from Saunders worked seven days, 130 man hours, and moved 350 tons of crushed gravel to complete it. The donation was part of the company’s “Building Confidence in Kids,” an employee-driven philanthropic initiative that partnered with St. Vincent’s earlier this year.

“We are deeply grateful to our friends at Saunders Construction for this generous gift,” said Kay Kelleher Mcdowell, director of development.

Volunteers are also planning a carnival, fishing, hiking, bowling, rolling skating, equine therapy, and trips to Elitch Gardens, a Rockies’ baseball game and an Outlaws’ lacrosse game for the children. For more information, visit www.msvhome.org.

Click here to watch video coverage from Fox31, including an interview with director Sister Amy Wilcott.

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