Did you know that SORBA is a nonprofit organization, now 10,000 members strong, mostly operated by volunteers? When you think of volunteering for SORBA, you might think of digging in the dirt or helping at an event. But in addition to those important jobs, there’s a wide variety of roles that must be filled to continue supporting mountain biking across the Southeast. Everything from advocacy to financial operations have to be covered, and in most cases, by volunteers.

As we prepare for this year’s Giving Tuesday, we want to share a few stories of people who make a big difference to SORBA. Your donation helps them carry out our mission to provide access to the social, physical and mental benefits that mountain biking provides. Today, we’re sharing an interview with SORBA Board Member, our Treasurer Dan Thrailkill. 

Welcome Dan, and thank you for sharing your story with us!  The first thing we want to know is how you got involved with SORBA, and what are your usual volunteer activities?

My husband and I have always enjoyed the outdoors and both grew up riding bikes. When our sons moved into our home in 2018 at 3 and 4, we knew we needed to keep them moving! Like many folks, my husband and I rediscovered our love for mountain biking during COVID and pleasantly learned that both of our sons also enjoyed it, one even more than the other. We got them some decent bikes from REI to get started and away we went… As we fell more in love with the trails in our area and began volunteering at events, I reached out to Jay Wilkes, then President of SORBA Woodstock, about how I could step up and get more involved on a regional level. He mentioned that the current Treasurer for SORBA (main) was stepping down and I should consider being nominated for the role given my background and experience. I reached out to Philip Darden, submitted myself as a nominee, Jay also nominated me, and here we are!

My usual volunteer activities have historically involved orgs related to Diabetes, Active Lifestyles, or Foster Child Advocacy. Since my diagnosis in January of 1988 with type 1 diabetes, I have supported Camp Adam Fisher, the largest and oldest all volunteer summer camp for kids with type 1 diabetes in the USA. For several years, I served as Financial Aid Director and am one of longest serving camp volunteers. I also currently serve on the Finance Committee for our church and have previously volunteered with Camp Kudzu (Georgia), Insulin Dependence (California), SORBA Woodstock (Event Volunteer), and a few other organizations.

Our second question is, what impact does mountain biking have on your life?

As a 35 year type 1 diabetic, the health benefits of mountain biking regularly cannot be emphasized enough! While any form of cardiovascular activity can have a long lasting and beneficial effect on my insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation, Mountain Biking allows me to “get out” and into a place where I can ride with my family, challenge myself during a solo ride, or just give me a great excuse to turn my phone off and disconnect. One of the indirect impacts is that my sons have made some mountain bike buddies and learned that intense looking adults on mountain bikes are not as mean as they may look while riding. When my boys moved in with us, being around lots of adults brought about anxiety. While they were learning to ride on our local trails, they would get hollered at with comments like “shred it dude…, nice bike…, great job…” with the occasional fist bump. These types of interactions not only helped with their self confidence but also made them less anxious around unknown adults. Overall, Mountain Biking has not only improved my personal health but the health of our family, and has given our sons an activity that they can do into adulthood.

What benefits do you believe that mountain biking brings to the community as a whole?

The culture of mountain biking is open to new folks but also very internal. Once you are a part of the culture, you are part of the Mountain Bike Family whether you like it or not, and we LOVE it! Having Mountain Biking as an activity in our area gives another opportunity for families with kids to meet up and ride together, drop the kids off and let them shred in their peer group, and in my opinion, I do not know of a community where trails are located that is not friendly towards families. So if you’re looking to travel as a family, you can look to those areas that have a trail system. From an economic standpoint, trail systems bring in outside dollars to the local community at a very low expense. This helps to provide revenue for the trail system’s maintenance, upkeep, and improvement while also supporting other local businesses like restaurants, bars, bike shops, etc. Mountain Biking is good for any community that wants to be family friendly and loves talking about ROIs the community can invest into.

If someone wants to get involved, what advice would you give?

If you want to get involved with Mountain Biking, just go ride… start on your street, in your yard, etc. You do NOT have to have a trail system or a multi thousand dollar mountain bike. Once you know that you like it and want to do it more, go find some local trails to ride on via the SORBA site or your local Park and Rec website. After you get a feel for your trails and your ability, THEN go investigate equipment that might help you enjoy biking even more. If you have free time and want to spend it outdoors, consider reaching out to the folks that run and maintain your local trail systems. They are ALWAYS looking for other passionate people to volunteer to keep their trails looking beautiful!

Thank you for sharing your volunteer experience with us, Dan! You make a huge difference to SORBA and the work that we do. We are extremely grateful to rely on Dan’s expertise in the finance world to help guide SORBA forward. We’re also grateful for so many other volunteers who give their time and talents all year long, helping SORBA to thrive and grow.

To support the work of volunteers like Dan, please consider a donation to SORBA. Giving Tuesday is November 28, and in case you haven’t heard, TCK is giving a free pair of Outdoor Adventure Socks to each donation over $50! Early giving has already started, so you can give today!

If you’re interested in volunteering at the regional level, just email jen.flavin@sorba.org to see how we can match your skills and interests to the volunteer opportunities we have available. 

SORBA is grateful for the many volunteers who make our work possible, and we are especially thankful for our donors and sponsors. When trails are supported, everybody wins!