SAN ANTONIO – Promoting healthy living and literacy throughout San Antonio is the mission for Ride for Reading San Antonio.
Every month during the school year, volunteer cyclists looking to get some exercise take their workout one step further. The nonprofit collects book donations through company book drives and word of mouth. During their monthly rides, they load up their backpacks and bike baskets with books to deliver to local Title I schools.
Statistics show one in seven children have just one book at home. Once the books are delivered, the students get to pick two from their grade level to take home and keep for themselves.
Each ride, the cyclists are greeted with wildly excited kids, cheers and sometimes even pep rallies.
Stephanie Ward, board chairwoman for Ride for Riding, said the reward for the ride is seeing the students' reaction to the books and the delivery itself.
"They get to see us role model what we are trying to tell them -- that it’s easy to be healthy in your community in your daily life, and we know that the healthier you are, the better the kids can perform in school," Ward said.
Michael Santellan leaned about Ride for Reading through his local bike meetups. He said the feeling of riding up to a school full of cheering kids is indescribable and burning a few calories is an extra perk.
"I love cycling. I love reading. If I can combine the two, that's great and very satisfying," Santellan said.
Ride for Reading was first started in 2008 by a teacher and avid cyclist in Nashville. In July 2015, Ward heard about the organization and felt called to bring it to San Antonio and give local cyclists the chance to give back in a unique way. Two years later, she created the first official chapter outside of Nashville.
Santellan encourages anyone who loves to cycle to go the extra mile and add volunteering into a workout routine. Ward said the routes to the school change every month but never exceed 7 miles, so anyone with any experience can participate.
To join the next ride, visit the Ride for Reading San Antonio Facebook page. There, you can also message Ward about setting up a company book drive or dropping off a personal donation.