By RENE HUGE

Plant the seeds early and if you do, they grow into strong, confident, adventure-loving young ladies. This is the goal of the new chapter of Little Bellas being initiated this summer in Cody.

Young girls ages 7-13 can unplug and learn to ride mountain bikes with their friends and cycling mentors in the inaugural eight-week session beginning June 16 at the Beck Lake Park and adjacent Cody Lions Park.

“I’m really excited because my friends are going to do this with me and I get to learn some more awesome mountain biking,” said Charlotte Quick, 8. “And, we get to have a party and snacks.”

Parents are enthused as well.

“I’m not sure who’s more excited, Charlotte or I,” said her mother, Amy Quick, volunteer mentor and idea instigator.

Quick first heard of the Little Bellas program during one of the BikerChix Mountain Bike Camps when a leader from another program out of state came to coach.

“I was a little familiar with it, but the more I learned the more excited I became about having one in Cody. I thought, ‘I want this for my daughter.’”

Thus began the planning process and establishment of the first Little Bellas program in Wyoming.

“This is the first Little Bellas program in Wyoming – pretty special to get that honor,” said program director Nyla Hurley. “The organization provides a lot of support to the individual chapters.”

Hurley has put in a lot of work to make it happen.

“This program would not be possible without Nyla,” Amy Quick said. “She has stepped up, gone through all the hoops, put in the time and training and filled out all the applications in order to make this a reality for Cody.”

Hurley, who grew up in Cody, recently returned after pursuing her education and jumped into the cycling community with both feet. A member of the Park County Pedalers Board of Directors and frequent rider with the Cody BikerChix, she likes to think how her life might have been changed with a program like Little Bellas.

“I was in my late 20s when I started riding mountain bikes,” she said. “Makes me wonder what kind of human I would be if I’d started riding at their age. Studies show that girls who continue sports and activities like this through their teenage years and beyond have more confidence and better goal setting as adults.”

Hurley is excited to get more girls on bikes, to empower them and teach them confidence and about healthy choices.

She’s excited to witness some great camaraderie and friendships through cycling and outdoor adventures with these young girls and their mentors.

The program incorporates junior and adult mentors rather than coaches.

“Little Bellas utilizes local female bikers of all abilities from never-evers to experts to mentor these girls,” Quick said.

Girls 14 and older can be junior mentors.

“Little Bellas has a great policy that makes sure mentors are there for every session, to build that relationship with the girls,” Hurley said. “They go through extensive training, background checks, and when the session starts there’s a set of mentors with each group who help the girls learn how to overcome obstacles on trails, leading them in games and bike skills.”

Email Hurley at nyla@littlebellas.com for more information or to get involved.

The group will meet 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, June 16-Aug. 11.

“You don’t have to be an avid cyclist or have extensive bike knowledge to help out, you just need to know how to ride a bike and want to contribute to these girls and spend time with them,” Hurley said.

Register for the eight-week Little Bellas program opens Feb. 1 at LittleBellas.com. The cost is $199.

Scholarships are available.

“Little Bellas will never turn a girl away because they don’t have money or equipment,” Hurley said. “They have a great scholarship program and Gear Up program available.”

Charlotte gave some helpful advice for young girls who might be nervous about mountain biking.

“I would say if they’re scared, just go out and try. It might be fun,” she said.

Space is limited, so sign up early.

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