By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
An estimated 200 cyclists turned out for the Liberty Freedom Ride on Feb. 15 in Liberty. This was the fifth annual ride organized by the Liberty ISD Education Foundation and this year the weather cooperated with sunny skies and no rain, a change from the last two years when rain has dampened participation.
“This was the first year that we moved it up to February to avoid some of those spring storms we get around here. We’ve had a couple of rough years with the weather,” said Bruce Wright, one of the organizers. “We finally caught a little traction this year. We are back up to the numbers we saw in year 2.”
Wright said the first year saw 125 riders, followed by 200 the second year and a drop-off in the fourth and fifth years.
“We were shooting for 300 riders for year 3 but the weather kept people away. I am just glad to see us back in this position,” he said.
The bike ride is a fundraiser for the Education Foundation, which provides classroom grants to teachers with innovative and creative projects that fall outside of the normal streams of school funding.
“There is a normal budget for a school district that comes from tax dollars. Teachers can only spend a certain amount, but let’s say they have a great idea, but they don’t have the funds to do it,” he said. “That’s where the Foundation steps in. We try to find teachers doing those innovative and creative things in the classrooms that might not be covered by the school district’s budget.”
Since 2007, the Education Foundation has awarded $213,000 in classroom grants to Liberty ISD teachers. Wright was among the recipients from his time as a teacher. His $5,000 grant went to create a studio where students could record themselves singing or playing musical instruments.
“We ended up having a lot of kids involved,” Wright said. “I think education is the way out of poverty for some of these kids. This is the way they find a career. These projects keep them in school and often off of drugs. There are so many great things that are accomplished by the grants.”
Margaret Gardzina, director of Curriculum and Instruction for Liberty ISD, agrees. While the school district pays for salaries and facilities, provides teachers with the basics and furnishes some helpful devices for students to use like whiteboards, Chromebooks and iPads, the grants go a step further in educating and inspiring children to learn.
“Through the years, there have been some really great projects funded by the classroom grants,” she said. “We’ve had mobile science labs, a cooking club, expansions of classroom libraries and career exploration centers for little kids. I think it goes in all directions. I think it’s great.”
This year’s ride drew in people from as far away as North Dakota. Others traveled from north Texas and other parts of the state. The oldest rider was 75 and the youngest was 15. Riders picked between routes that took them from Liberty to Moss Hill or as far north as the Rye/Romayor area, and back.
Wright is a member of the Liberty-Dayton Bike Club, a free membership club that meets every Saturday at 8 a.m. at the Liberty High School stadium on Grand Ave. Anyone with an interest in improving their physical health and being part of the bike club is welcome to attend.
“Every Saturday, we ride from Liberty to Hardin and back to Liberty. We stop in Hardin for breakfast and then come back. It’s a 20-mile trip. We are a no-drop group, which means we will stop and wait on the people who need a little more time,” Wright said.
Wright added that the Bike Club bridges the gap between supporting the Foundation, but it’s also a community development group.
“We want people to know that we care about their physical health. All you have to do is show up and you are in,” he said.
For more information on the Liberty-Dayton Bike Club, a Facebook page is updated routinely. Just log onto Facebook and join.