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  • Tue May 10 2005
  • Posted May 9, 2005
Garner leads, helps at-risk teens achieve their goals Scott Garner is one of 20 mentors acting as role models and helping at-risk teens achieve their goals. By RENDA LUTZ REGISTER STAFF WRITER May 10, 2005 Riding a bicycle across the state as a member of the Dream Team has been a life-altering experience for many young people, as well as mentors like Scott Garner. As a volunteer training and preparing young people to ride in The Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, Garner spends several hours a week passing along knowledge and encouragement to at-risk teens from the Des Moines metro area. A business analyst at Principal Financial Group, Garner, 42, first rode on RAGBRAI in 1982. After sitting out for a few years, he learned there was more to the weeklong event than just bicycle riding. "I thought the Dream Team sounded like a great program," he said. "At the first meeting, I was hooked immediately. The passion the other volunteers had for the kids was exciting." With the emotional support of his wife, Garner, a southeast Des Moines resident, became a Dream Team mentor four years ago. "It's a pretty large commitment to be a mentor," he said. "It's all about the youth and helping them achieve goals and caring for them." Frank Hansman, a Roosevelt High School senior, said, "My life has been changed by being on the Dream Team. Last year was my first time on RAGBRAI and it was the greatest experience of my life." Garner and about 19 other mentors are working out with the teens, who are from 13 to 18 years old. Other volunteers play support roles, helping to feed the team or assisting during RAGBRAI. Dream Team riders begin training three days a week in February at the Riverfront YMCA, which donates equipment and allows the use of facilities for indoor workouts. With the arrival of daylight-saving time and milder weather, the team gets outside - riding 25 miles during the week and 35 miles on Saturdays before gradually building up to 85-mile treks.
Dream Team needs mentors for this year's RAGBRAI or to come aboard for the 2006 ride. Volunteers also are needed to play a support role during training or along the ride. Contact Scott Garner at 362-1361.
After getting involved in the Dream Team, Garner saw an opportunity to help with organization, so he stepped forward, taking on more responsibility. He schedules and assigns mentors and maps out training routes. "Scott is one of the reasons the team runs so smoothly," said T.J. Juskiewicz, RAGBRAI director. "He dedicates so much of his time to the program. He has a lot of other work and family commitments, but he still makes the time to reach these kids." Garner said mentors need to enjoy cycling and have patience and the ability to interact well with teens. The mentors reach out to all the teen riders, but Garner said youths sometimes gravitate towards a particular mentor. Teens often get involved in the team through the recommendation of a school counselor or teacher. Other youths are recruited by friends on the team. About 40 teens are training with the Dream Team. Some of those teens might not complete the ride, but the first-year riders who complete RAGBRAI will earn a bicycle. Many young people return to the team year after year, even though they've already earned their wheels. Older, experienced teens sometimes assume roles as junior mentors and help with new riders. Barrett Warming, a senior at Lincoln High School, has been on the Dream Team for five years and a junior mentor for three years. "Scott has provided a lot of leadership to the team," Warming said. "He wants to see everyone succeed." Hansman described Garner as laid-back, but added he expects the riders to follow the rules. "The mentors provide us with training, but much of it is mental training," Hansman said. "It's more about achieving something valuable and working for your bike. They encourage us and show us the bright side of things." Garner said seeing the teens succeed keeps him involved in the Dream Team. "My main focus is to be there for the kids," he said. "I want to be an adult they know they can count on. I want to be an encourager." Juskiewicz said, "The world needs more Scott Garners."
Help Dream Team The RAGBRAI Dream Team relies on donations to pay for the team's activities and equipment needs. A GIFT: of $1,000 will sponsor a member's training; $250 will buy a bicycle; $75 will cover meals during training; and $35 will buy a safety helmet. HELP: At-risk youths ages 13-18. SEND CONTRIBUTION: RAGBRAI, P.O. Box 622, Des Moines, Ia. 50303-0622. MORE INFORMATION: Contact T.J. Juskiewicz at 284-8289 or tj@ragbrai.org.

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