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Bethesda recognized for Cycling Without Age program in Willmar

Erica Dischino / Tribune file photo Melissa Wentzel, Club Bethesda director, steers a trishaw while Mary Frick, Bethesda Club member, left, and Britta Diem, Willmar Community Center director, enjoy the ride in this October 2018 file photo. Bethesda's Cycling Without Age initiative, in partnership with the city of Willmar, has been recognized by LeadingAge Minnesota with the “Stars Among Us” Community Collaboration Award.

WILLMAR — Bethesda Willmar has received a "Stars Among Us" Community Collaboration Award from LeadingAge Minnesota for its Cycling Without Age initiative conducted in partnership with the city of Willmar.

The award recognizes an aging services provider that partners with a city, agency, community group or other business to go beyond its traditional long-term care role to support and improve the greater community.

Cycling Without Aging is the first program of its kind in Greater Minnesota and one of only two programs in the state. Its goal is to benefit community health and wellness, build new relationships, reduce isolation and break down the stigma associated with aging.

"Many of us take for granted the simple act of being able to go on a bike ride. Cycling Without Age allows our seniors to remain an active and engaged part of our community while providing them the opportunity to go on a bike ride," said Ashley Borman, Bethesda administrator.

Cycling Without Age uses trishaws, special bikes that allow a volunteer pedaler or "pilot" to bring one to two other people for a ride in the front seat of the bike.

Bethesda first became interested in the program as an activity for its residents but recognized the greater value it could bring to the entire community. With help from the city, Bethesda assembled a team of community partners to establish the program, build awareness, secure funding and recruit volunteers for the program.

The trishaws are available for Bethesda residents as well as other organizations and clubs to check out and use free of charge. The bikes have appeared at such events as the Walk to End Alzheimer's, Rockin' Robbins, Willmar Fests, the Mayor's Bike Ride and Life Connections. Open community ride days have also been scheduled.

Bethesda will expand the program this year with the purchase of four additional trishaws. While the initial program was funded through volunteer donations, both Bethesda and the city of Willmar have plans to seek additional funding partners as well as support the initiative through their annual operating budgets.

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