Friends, fun, healthy choices and bikes: Little Bellas to hit the trails for year three

By Eileen Persike

MMC Staff

RHINELANDER – When a Little Bellas mountain bike club came to Rhinelander three years ago, organizer Val Foley had hopes, but no expectations for how the “girls on bikes” program would be received in the Northwoods.

But for Foley, making equal space for women and girls in the world of mountain biking was a passion.

“I think it’s important for women – women are good riders, and they may not have the power and the strength of men, but they have the abilities,” Foley said in 2022. “It’s such a good outlet. It helped me get through a lot of things in life. And I want to empower young girls to be able to do the same thing.”

Fast forward to 2024, and participation in Little Bellas, a program for girls ages seven to 13, continues to grow. Registration is open now for the program that will take place 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday evenings from July 14 though Sept. 3 at the Washburn Sports Silent Trails Area.

In addition to Rhinelander, participants come from as far away as Tomahawk, Phelps, Lac du Flambeau, Wausau, Eagle River and Minocqua.

The program continues because the need for a female-centered program still exists.

“There is a statistic that says 30% of girls drop out of sports in middle school because they are told they aren’t good enough, fast enough, strong enough, they have to maintain a certain body image,” Foley said recently. “Sadly, they leave sports. Things are still male-based.”

The Little Bellas’ mission is to help young women reach their fullest potential.

“We aim to create a community to empower women through cycling, accent the importance of goals and a healthy lifestyle and emphasize a positive female bond,” according to www.littlebellas.com.

 All mentors are women, and the organization was started by a pair of sisters. The program emphasizes the importance of goal-setting, healthy choices and strong female bonds. The girls play games, eat snacks, have fun and hit the trails.

Little Bellas is open to all skill levels – Foley said girls should be able to ride a bike, as training wheels are not allowed on the trails – and financial assistance is available.

“We area a pretty financially-depressed area, and they offer scholarships, you can get a bike from them,” Foley said. “The girls need a decent mountain bike, but that should not be a barrier so (Little Bellas) will provide them – and helmets.”

If payment is not affordable, parents only have to indicate that when registering. Scholarships are available through donations.

Visit www.littlebellas.com to register for the program or to make a donation.

The Rhinelander chapter of Little Bellas is about to begin its third year. The girls here are riding at the Washburn Silent Trails area, where the group meets. The new eight-week session begins Sunday, July 14. Contributed photos.
Registration for the Little Bellas mountain biking program is open, and financial help is available.
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