One of the benefits of working with local foundations is the deeply connected relationship a nonprofit builds with the organization. Since our very early days, BikeWalkKC has been a recipient of support from the Health Forward Foundation (HFF, formerly the Healthcare Foundation of Greater Kansas City). The Health Forward Foundation advocates for healthy and equitable communities by eliminating barriers for underserved populations, and we value their investments in our people and our work. Their support has enabled us to develop and expand our work on youth and adult education, outcomes and evaluation, infrastructure and equity, and leadership projects to create a culture of active living in the Kansas City area.
The Health Forward Foundation was one of the first of our funders to appreciate the impact policy and built environment can have on public health. With their support, we have provided Safe Routes to School planning and activation across the Kansas City Public School District, starting with James Elementary in 2012. These efforts have gone on to include BLAST to teach kids bike safety and build their riding confidence, Earn-a-Bike to teach bicycle maintenance and offer free bikes to students, policy reviews and school travel plans to promote active transportation to and from school, advocacy training for parents and neighbors, and professional development and technical assistance for school and district staff to start their own programming, such as Walking School Buses or Bike to School Day.
Four BikeWalkKC employees have completed HFF’s Healthy Communities Leadership Academy, which focuses on adaptive and civic leadership development to positively impact community health. These graduates have joined a network of change makers, local experts, and field agents that are creating a culture of active living here in the Kansas City region. Laura Steele, our education manager and most recent employee to attend the Leadership Academy, says, “The academy gave me a place to play with different concepts of leadership. I had numerous opportunities to immediately apply what I learned and feel confident that when I employed these strategies in my own work, I could dissect the results with others in my cohort as well as with my mentor. It was an invaluable experience.”
In a multi-phased project addressing Transportation Inequity, BikeWalkKC and HFF implemented several robust programs and services to impact health outcomes and provide mobility in communities lacking transportation options. We brought adult Earn-a-Bike sessions, women- and girl-focused bike education, Complete Streets advocacy workshops, and engagement and capacity-building programming to Kansas City neighborhoods where about 30% of families do not own a car. The Health Forward Foundation has also been a principle partner in our Bike Share for All project, which connects community services organizations with our bike share operator to offer a low-cost transportation option to people who do not have access to their own bicycle.
Our latest projects with HFF will include sustaining our Transportation Equity work, continuation of the Bike Share for All program, and a new Coalition Building for Active Communities initiative, all which were funded in 2018. The Health Forward Foundation has been instrumental in the growth of the impact of BikeWalkKC and our work, and we are grateful for their steadfast belief in our work.