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Taking it to the Kids

Steve@SCCSThe students at Saint Cecilia’s Catholic School didn’t mind sharing their lunchtime with Steve Rhoades. Wearing a jazzy-looking helmet and bright red and yellow bicycle gear, he parked his bike, complete with a compact trailer, in the center of their lunchroom. He had their attention.

Steve was there to talk about bicycle safety. He was also there to talk about a lot more. For the next half hour, he shared with the young students his experience of riding to California and back, down Hurricane Ridge in 27 minutes, and across the United States. They were keenly interested in his upcoming ride in Death Valley, Arizona, and New Mexico. “Have you ever been hit by a car?” one of the students wanted to know. “Twelve times,” Steve answered. “When I was a bike messenger in Seattle, I was hit once every year, seriously enough to send me to the hospital. I always wear a helmet. If I didn’t have a helmet on, I would have been killed. Once, my helmet was broken into 27 pieces.”

Steve continued to answer questions about his bicycle, how fast he can go, and how much water he drinks, yet didn’t forget to bring the subject back to them.  “Safety never takes a vacation,” he cautioned. “Wear a helmet, eat right, and stay healthy.”

Steve had another message for the kids at SCCS. He told them that when he was thirteen years old, he started drinking and taking drugs. “My father was in the military, so we moved often. Every time we moved, I had to make friends at a new school, and that was hard. I got bullied a lot. The kids picked on me because I was small and thin. The only ones who talked to me were the ones who smoked pot. If other people had reached out to me, I might have not gone down that road. Then it was hard to leave the drugs.  When I was older . . . I couldn’t quit. They got a hold of me and I couldn’t quit. I had no idea that taking drugs would eventually make me a homeless person. I had a cocky attitude. My best thinking got me living on the streets in garbage cans. One day I prayed and asked for help. I am here today because God saved me.

“There are three things that will happen to you if you do drugs. You will kill yourself; you will kill somebody else; or you will end up in jail. I’m here to tell you that you’re God’s creation. Your ego is not your amigo. Your ego is out to get you hurt. Thirty-five of my friends have died, and only two of them died in Vietnam. The rest of them died because of drugs and alcohol.”

“What about the kids who feel like they don’t belong somewhere?” asked a teacher who was listening and watching. Steve directed a firm answer to the kids. “Talk to your teacher or principal. Get the help from those who can get you through the journey. You’re worth it. If you feel lost, talk to your mom or dad, teacher or principal. They’re here for you.”

You can contact Steve Rhoades at



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