By Guy Still

For many of us, with the New Year come new resolutions. Some are determined to lose weight, make a difference in the world or volunteer more.

Thanks to an amazing local organization that has been serving Minnesota communities for more than two decades, you can make a difference while volunteering and, very possibly, shedding a few extra pounds after indulging in a one too many Christmas cookies.

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Bolder Options connects boys and girls ages 10 to 14 with volunteer mentors, providing the child with one more resource to promote character development, goal-setting and wellness, through increased exercise.

Physical activity is a key component in the program, with a focus on either running or cycling.

Once a mentor and mentee are matched up, the pair will choose a bicycle (or a pair of running shoes) for the mentee, provided by Bolder Options.

Over the course of a year, mentors meet with mentees a minimum of 2 to 4 hours per week and focus on academic support and physical activity.

For example, the duo could work on some algebra and then get out and go for a nice ride along Theodore Wirth Parkway.

At the start of the program mentees also set goals, geared towards academic, social and physical health. The mentor assists the mentee in breaking down these goals and creating an action plan in order to make the goals a reality.

Community rides are offered monthly and pairs are required to complete at least three 15 to 30 mile rides during the duration of the program. (There are similar requirements for running, if the pair chooses that instead of cycling.)

Many groups go much further than the minimum ride requirements, and some have even participated in the MS 150 ride from Duluth to Minneapolis.

While a number of the children who participate in Bolder Options face some sort of challenge, be it poverty, diversion programs, or academic struggles, almost all complete the program with better academic performance, improved social skills, healthier eating habits and a clearer path for success.

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While the program has certain requirements, it’s about so much more than completing a checklist.

Being a mentor with Bolder Options allows one to share his/her love of cycling and spend a year with a young woman or man and watch them mature and grow, while providing advice, companionship and a positive role model.

(credit: Bolder Options)

(credit: Bolder Options)

On its website, Bolder Options has this example of one mentor/mentee experience:


When 5th grader Jerry came to Bolder Options, his school had concerns about his well-being. He was on medication for ADHD, living in deep poverty in a precarious housing situation and struggling in school due to anxiety and bullying. Additionally, Jerry’s health wasn’t the best since he wasn’t getting much physical activity day-to-day. Things didn’t look good for his long-term outcomes, but Bolder Options staff recognized a spark in Jerry that was hard to deny. They matched him with Jack, a mentor in our biking program. Jerry had never ridden a bike before, and at 11 years-old and overweight, he was nervous to try. But, with the investment of time, one-on-one attention, and the equipment he needed, Jerry not only learned to bike, he began riding every week with Jack. The pair proudly reported on Jerry’s progress each time they met to tackle an activity together. Thanks to Jack’s investment, Jerry now has the confidence and support he needs to improve his health, be active like any other kid and successfully navigate 5th grade.


Bolder Options serves upwards of 100 kids annually through its mentorship efforts and thousands more with other programs focused on leadership skills, wellness and academics.

If you live in Rochester, Minn. or the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and would like to become a mentor you can apply for the program here.

Before you know it good riding weather will be upon us and you can show a young person all that you, and our great trail systems, have to offer.

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Bolder Options is funded mainly through corporate and private donations. If you are unable to serve as a mentor but would still like to help out you can do so by donating here.