Kenneth Walker & the Major Taylor Foundation of Greater Kansas City
About Kenneth R. Walker
Kenneth R. Walker is a 46-year old cyclist with an impressive dossier whose level of commitment to both the sport and local youth programs within his Kansas City community is without equal. As the Founder and President of Major Taylor Foundation of Greater Kansas City in Missouri, Ken gives large amounts of his time, talent, and abilities to “bringing into the light” the advantages of cycling within the African-American community.
Brother Ken has spent most of his life in Kansas City busying himself with many different sports. Among his myriad of interests are basketball, skating, track, and now, cycling. His first taste “in the saddle” was at the young age of 26 and he has yet to turn his back on it. Even after 30 years, and recovering from a ruptured right Achilles tendon (2003), he’s still one of the strongest riders in his city. . . always emphasizing the importance of staying strong and exercising.
“Kansas City has one of the highest rates of obesity in the nation, and a huge proportion of that is represented in the African-American community. ... I saw first-hand how our youth were getting bigger and bigger at younger ages and began thinking about a way to give my community some options.”
Brother Walker’s mission to spread the news about the benefits of cycling has reached the ears of hundreds of other cyclists, as well as those who support his attempts to enlighten the community. One such supporter of his agenda is the Kansas City Mayor’s Office that has graciously extended to him an invitation to assist in the planning of one of their city projects.
“Ever since I asked those questions of myself and went out and started to make a difference, things have changed. Now I am going to do whatever I can do to get more African-Americans on bikes!”
Ken has been married 12 years and has three boys and one girl. His 17-year-old son also races, and is proving to follow in the footsteps of his father. His first win was the Tour of Kansas City bike race in August, 2005, where he made history as the first African-American in its 43-year history to win such race. Two weeks later, his oldest son, Thomas, won in Sedalia, Missouri. It’s easy to see that the apples aren’t falling far from the tree. Even more so, this is evidenced by Ken’s own recent win of the Road Bike Action Magazine’s $10,000 racing sponsorship for the 2008 racing season. Excellence all the way around.
It is Ken’s hope that a love for cycling will take root in his community--as well as within the nation--because he knows the possibilities are endless if the African-American community were to come together and make their numbers known.
Genesis Cycling Scholars
Written by Marcus Brown
I wanted to take a moment of time out of your busy day to share with you some updated information from MTFGKC about it's Cycling Scholars Program at Genesis School. We have been working this program over the last three weeks and I have selected you as the first to learn more about what has been going on. So please bear with me.
We plan on offering only 10 cycling scholarships, but the response we got was more than we expected. So far we have received over 30 applications from students and have decided to create a waiting list. This really started after we selected the very first two scholarship winners- assigned them their loaner bikes, gave them helmets, gloves and jerseys- and took them out on their first rides.
Both of these guys, whom I call 2smooth and Kamikaze, have taken to riding and instruction very well. They were also very willing to wear the clothing, regardless of the jokes from fellow students! After a couple of ride with these young men, I saw students in the school started treating them differently... with admiration, full of questions about what it is like, and "do you think I can do it?".
What is really amazing to me is that riding with these two reminds me exactly of when my sons Thomas and Christian started racing. Look to see race results from these two soon.
We selected a young lady, we call "Binky", who showed bravery and courage on her first ride out. She is riding with the boys and is very steady. She goes at her own pace and does not give up. The other day, she fell off her bike riding uphill, got up and caught up with the group. She scraped her elbow, but she never gave any indication that it hurt. She says she has a twin sister who does not attend Genesis who wants to start riding with us.
Classroom sessions have gone very well also. We cover some aspect of cycling education, hand and voice signals were the topic last week... and the kids seem to like the idea of knowing more about Major Taylor. I have seen an increase in focus and improved behavior from those we have already selected. These kids are like sponges and they are fearless, ready to take on every new challenge. In each of them, in just a short period of time, I have seen them grow and develop. Presently, we have awarded 5 scholarships, and have a fix on the selection of the final 5 students.
So far, so good. I have been spending 4 days a week at the school for 3-4 hours of the day. There are so many kids talking with me about riding and racing bicycles, and it has been rubbing off on the teachers as well. At least 5 Genesis teachers have volunteered to assist the program and want to begin riding bicycles themselves, alongside the kids. An unexpected plus!
Genesis School has been a pleasure to work with. Despite the fact that we have limited (limited is a politically correct term) funding presently for this program, they have stepped up and supported me, the mission of MTFGKC and the Cycling Scholars program.
They have produced a very professional looking promo DVD for MTFGKC and have gotten airplay on UMKC's cable channel.(Let me know if you would like a copy to help us spread the word) They are providing storage for bikes and equipment- they even wash the jerseys after every ride. They have made a way to make sure that kids have access to and eat healthy food and drink before we leave for our rides, cleared their parking lot for us to work on biking skills and handled the classroom side of much of our cycling education information. With the addition of their volunteers for the program, we are on our way!
My hope is that someone will see the value, expertise and impact in what we are doing, spread the word, and others will want to jump in and assist in raising funding for this program.
But if not, know that I will still be out here plugging away. I have found that despite the drudgery of board development and endless meetings and late nights, being with these kids brings me all the way back to why I started doing all of this. I was given this "mission" by God, and he never said anything to me about raising money. He told me to go out and help kids- and by God, I will. But of course, if you know someone who wants to help, feel free to direct them to me.
I have not really released this update publicly as I usually do. Most of you have been chosen because I value your opinion and I trust you. So as you have a chance to look this over, please contact me with any ideas, suggestions, corrections, resources, etc. I would most appreciate it. Thanks you, as always for your time, interest and support of the Major Taylor Foundation of Greater Kansas City.
Genesis Cycling Scholars Program
Genesis is a five time nationally recognized Charter School serving middle school age students in Kansas City, MO. It was established as a VISTA tutoring project in the mid 1970’s. With public and private funding the program soon grew to become an alternative high school serving “at risk” students. In the year 2000 Genesis became a charter school. Genesis offers many extracurricular activities for students to participate in such as, Radio and Video Production, African Dancing and drumming, basketball and tennis.
The Major Taylor Foundation of Greater Kansas City, (MTFGKC) is seeking to add to the list by partnering with Genesis to provide a Cycling Scholars program.
The program will start with 10 scholarship recipients. Students participating in the program should have the following Qualifications::
- A desire to ride a bicycle·
- Moral value
- Good sportsmanship·
- C+ grade point average or better·
- 85% school attendance
Scholarship applicants will have to submit:
- ;Written essay on social and sportsmanship issues faced by Major Taylor and how students might handle a similar situation today.
- Parent Permission form
- Letter of recommendation from a teacher/li>
The program will last 8-12 weeks, meeting twice a week. Sessions will begin with 30 minutes of class instruction with an emphasis on riding safety. Another 45-60 minutes will cover maintenance, sportsmanship, riding skills, health/fitness, Major Taylor.;
Saturday Rides Include narrative on what the Saturday ride is:
Bike Buddies - 1:1 adult/student mentors that ride with the students
- After completion of program student receives bicycle, helmet, basic gear and MTFGKC t-shirt.
- Attendance and volunteer participation at the upcoming Tour of Missouri
- Reviews posted on website
- Reviews read on school radio program
Equipment and Supplies (stored at Genesis)
- 10 Mountain Bikes
- 10 Helmets
Meet the MTFGKC Board
As supporters of the Major Taylor Foundation of Greater Kansas City, I thought that I might take this opportunity to share with you the confirmed listing of MTFGKC's Board of Directors for 2007.
These are the dedicated individuals from our community who have seen the vision of the Foundation and have stepped forward to further it's development. Each of them, in their own way have made epic contributions and bring the needed skills and commitment that has allowed MTFGKC to become a viable community resouce for youth and adults alike.
You may know some of these individuals, so PLEASE JOIN ME, as I publicly introduce the MTFGKC BOARD OF DIRECTORS, in saying to them, THANK YOU for your time, efforts, and commitment to the Kansas City community, and the Major Taylor Foundation of Greater Kansas City.
Best Regards, Kenneth Walker