Harrison Barnes understands what it means to feel different. When he was just a toddler, he was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Dysfunction and Asperger’s Syndrome.
Athletic by nature, Harrison struggled to find an outlet for his boundless energy, but team sports didn’t work for him. When he was 12, Harrison discovered BMX, off road bike racing and everything clicked into place. By finding his focus and using his bike as a coping mechanism, Harrison realized that biking could help other kids with all kinds of challenges, some visible, some not. He founded Gear Up in 2016, a non-profit whose mission is to “Get Kids on Bikes!” By engaging kids’ minds and bodies in mentoring and coaching programming, Harrison has helped more than 160 children in eight states and has documented more than 450 hours in volunteer service. As he finishes his senior year, Harrison is planning to study occupational therapy at University, continuing to help children with developmental disabilities to find their place in the world like he has.
Harrison is committed to making a difference in his community and is today’s Daily Point of Light Award honoree. Points of Light spoke with him about his commitment to service.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I was inspired to volunteer because of people that helped me when I was little. I was diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder and there were many people that helped me to succeed. Now I want to give back and help others.
Describe your volunteer role.
I lead an organization called GearUp which exists to “get kids on bikes.” Primarily we work on projects that make bike riding more accessible to everyone and specifically children with special needs. My role is to organize and plan projects. I also serve as a mentor and help provide leadership to other programs with the same mission. In the fall of 2017, I organized a national bike rally focusing on bringing military children out to local tracks in 11 different states to get experience riding. For the summer of 2018, I created a Summer Bike Program that invited children across the country to register and then record the number of hours they rode their bike during the summer months. I recruited sponsors to provide prizes, the goal being to get kids outside and riding their bikes – more than 100 kids registered! I have also spent time working on lobbying for legislation to make youth sports safer for kids by requiring background checks for youth sports volunteers.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of what I do is working one on one with a child and seeing them find success.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
I have learned a lot about myself and about the best ways to interact with people.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
I am looking forward to the second year of our Summer Bike Challenge which encourages kids to get off the couch and ride their bike during the summer. Last year we had more than 100 participants.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
I think that by giving back, you learn more about yourself and what you are capable of.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
I want people to learn that a diagnosis cannot define who you are as a person.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Harrison? Visit All for Good for local volunteer opportunities.
Post written by Beth D’Addono.