Dean Holmes started the group to keep the children occupied over the summer holidays
A Newcastle group set up to keep kids busy during the summer holidays has become a thriving cycling club which rides around the North East several times a week.
Run by Dean Holmes, whose five sons all take part, the Heaton Goonies group took off during the long summer holidays and now goes out cycling twice or three times a week, with nighttime rides especially popular.
With 38 members between the ages of six and 14, the group goes on round trips of 10 miles or more from the Heaton estate, as far away as Hexham or the Rising Sun country park, but needs donations of bikes in all sizes to keep the group running. Dean, 35, said: “I’ve got five boys, we’re all avid cyclists, we go cycling pretty much daily. My children started bringing a friend and it just built up with all the kids off the estate.
“It was during the last summer holidays that it really got started, with the kids being off we were going on daily trips, twice even. I think I worked it out as about 500 miles per person we did. Those kids wouldn’t have got off the estate at all if it wasn’t for us.
“I didn’t think it would take off in the way that it has. I have put hundreds of hours into those kids.
“Without realising what we’re actually doing, we’re building life skills and social skills, when all they’re doing is having fun with their friends – that’s what makes me do it.
“They respect me, that’s all I ask from them. Sometimes they have a bit of a colourful tongue but that’s not allowed in the group.
“We have 24 bikes for the kids to use if they don’t own a bike. There’s two repair and maintenance classes a week where the kids can bring their bike along if they have had any issues.
“We’re fully risk-assessed. The group’s safety is the 100% priority. I want to do it right, I want to do it properly. A parent has to come for a week or so, I can’t just have strangers bringing kids.
“I go the way I think is safest [on my own] and then I look at the app and see if I can tweak it at all. It’s not always the quickest route but it’s the safest.
“I’ve been asking for help for months. We’ve done a 24-hour car wash, we’re doing a raffle, we’ve done a JustGiving page. We’ve got helmets, head torches, a set of gloves and a set of waterproofs. I have always got a bag full of chocolate with me.
“I’m on it every day trying to get supporters, even at the food shops trying to get us bruised apples.”
“I’m just trying to do the best for the kids. They designed the logo, they picked the name, they decide where to go – I’m just there to advise them and help them.
“I must have 20 to 30 letters saying we’re doing an absolutely amazing job, our kids have grown up more and they’ve got more respect for each other.”
Chronicle Tim Stickings