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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #58
June 25, 2008

Oh, The Places You'll Go

Emmanuel's Gift + Biking

Lance Armstrong, Greg Lemond are Eddie Merckx are all biking legends. But there's a name missing from that list: Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. In Emmanuel's Gift, an inspiring sports documentary, Oprah Winfrey narrates the true story of a boy born with a severely deformed right leg in Ghana, where locals believe a handicap is a curse from the deities (and where ten percent of the population is disabled). Rather than resign himself to a life of begging and poverty, Emmanuel shines shoes for $2 a day and then, masters riding a bicycle with one leg. Our kids were awed by Emmanuel's 600 mile ride across Ghana to prove to himself, and his country, that disabled people are capable of great achievement. From international coverage of Emmanuel's solo effort, wonderful things happen: he competes in a triathalon in the US, receives a free surgery for a prosthetic limb, and eventually returns to Ghana as a hero. Now, using his fame to serve as a champion for the disabled, Emmanuel's journey as a man who will make a difference is just beginning. Our very definition of a modern legend.

Summer brings back bicycle memories of our hometowns. Learning to master a two wheeler was a challenge (who hasn't left some skin on the asphalt as a badge of honor?) and finally being granted permission to travel somewhere by bicycle -- alone -- was a milestone of growing up. Riding off to visit friends, or the town pool, we had our first taste of freedom. Riding a bike is first step towards independence and we are sure this is why kids can't get enough. Biking together is a summer staple, and we love to plan bike adventures as a family. Our kids love to ride along the beach paths of Southern California, and don their helmets rapidly if the words "trail riding" are mentioned. A favorite treat for a summer's evening is to set up a sprinkler in the street and cruise (repeatedly) through the falling water. Kids know -- the journey is definitely more important than the destination.

Film Title: Emmanuel's Gift
Directed By: Lisa Lax, Nancy Stern
2005, Rated G, 80 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this film:

  • Why It's Worth It: This film gives kids a look at an atypical athlete. Like most sports documentaries, there is a triumphant ending, though this film is special because of Emmanuel's struggle with issues that make for thoughtful conversation about disabilities, and how one person can make a difference. Good for kids over eight.
  • Red Flags: Kids will be exposed to Ghana through Emmanuel's eyes: a country where ten percent of its people are disabled (many are shown with severely malformed limbs), and reduced to begging. Although not frightening, parents should be prepared.
  • Details on Emmanuel: Click here for a trailer, and fun details about Emmanuel's life -- how he wants to run for political office and was the first disabled man to visit the King.
  • Challenged Athlete's Foundation: is the California-based organization that sent Emmanuel his first bicycle. To learn more about other how this foundation sponsors equipment, fees and training for physically-challenged athletes, or how to get involved, click here for details.
  • Further Viewing for Bike Fans: We also showed our kids The Bicycle Thief (1949, UR), Vittoria deSica's spectacular story about a boy and his father in post-WW II Italy, who try to recover their stolen bike; this film won an Oscar in 1949 and is considered one of the great films of all time. Breaking Away (1979, PG), is a wonderful film about four boys who have to figure out what they want from life in a small Indiana town after high school. Starring a young Dennis Quaid, best for teens and up.

Our tips for talking with your kids about this film:

  • Cinema Savvy:  Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern of Lookalike Productions are twin sisters who are both veteran TV sports producers who have collected more than 15 Emmy Awards between them for their work.  How do these producers make the biking scenes come alive?
  • Olympics Savvy: Word has it that Emmanuel is planning on taking a team of wheelchair basketball players to the 2008 Paralympic Games is Beijing (Sept. 6-17, 2008).  Ask your kids to think about how they would play the sports they love if, like Emmanuel, they had a physical disability.


Take a Family Bike Ride

Age Recommendation: all ages
Time Allotment: five minutes to five hours

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Popcorn Adventure:
  • What We Learned: Every town has a place where kids can bike safely - whether a local university (these are usually pretty empty on weekends) or a park or rec center. Sometimes it's easier to transport bikes to a safe place than to just head out the door, especially with new riders.
  • Before You Go: Make sure each child has a helmet, and that you wear one, too! It's an important habit to establish early on. If you're trail rideing, review your trail carefully. If it's longer than your family can bike, plan for a turnaround point. Take note of any places to stop for lunch or a treat. Depending on how heavily traveled your path is you may want to review proper biking trail ettiquite with your kids.
  • Enjoy the View: It doesn't have to be a race! Take your time making your way along the trail. Many bike paths take you through historical sites, parks, or city landmarks. Pick one as a destination, or a resting point.
  • Playdate Heaven: Let the kids bring friends.
  • Ride instead of Drive: Bike riding is a green activity, of course, so use bikes to get an ice cream, travel to the pool, or visit the library.

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure around the USA:
  • Anywhere: Google your city + bike trails.  Rails-to-Trails Conservancy offers a search engine for trails across the USA.
  • Boston: The Arnold Arboretum, a 125-year old city park and Harvard research center, has a fantastic set of paved roads for bikers and pedestrians. The roads are actually closed to motorists. Climb, or walk, to the top of Peter’s Hill for a great view of the Boston skyline. As an added bonus, you can read the labels on the hundreds of collected trees as you glide by. Visit to discover other bike trails in Boston.
  • Houston: Hop on and enjoy the Brays Bayou Bike Trail. Running from Gessner to the Southern Pacific main line, the original trail is 6 miles long, with additional mileage found by continuing into the medical center district. With a total of 13 miles, it is the largest of all hike-and-bike trails in the Houston area. With wide paved paths, ample rest areas and a gorgeous view of the bayou, this trail provides the perfect scene for a fabulous family outing.
  • New York: Check out Bike New York for regional rides throughout New York as well as routes in New York City, bike rentals, classes and other helpful links. Aside from taking your kids to do the Central Park loop or riding around your neighborhood playground, you can now ride the entire length of Manhattan along the West Side!!  You just need to decide if you want to travel north towards the George Washington Bridge and the Little Red Lighthouse or points south!  For those familiar with the popular children's book The Little Red Lighthouse you may wish to take this route by entering the park at 135th Street and 12th Avenue (near Department of Environmental Protection) and follow the bike lane and signs as the trail bears right and runs between the ballpark and the rail tracks until you reach the Lighthouse underneath the Bridge! For points south, depending on your child's stamina, head to the 79th Street Boat Basin or ride through Riverside Park South past 59th Street and enjoy the many Piers along the Hudson River Bike trail all the way to Battery Park City. Whatever your destination, take along your helmets, snacks, plenty of water, your camera and enjoy the views!
  • San Francisco: Biking trails in the San Francisco Bay Area? Let's see... There are only about several thousand to choose from. Whether you're strictly an urban biker, a mountain trekker, or a road racer, there are tons of biking shops, biking groups and biking resources for you in and around the city. For the ladies, (and the girls), there is Velo Girls, a Peninsula-based female riding groups that has all ages, all abilities, and all degrees of intensity in their fold. They ride regularly and plan cool training schedules for centuries and other events. Most bicycle clubs ride every weekend, and many are family-friendly. To find one near you, check out Bicycle Clubs in California. For a list of trails hugging the San Francisco Bay, check out the websites for San Francisco Bay Trail, or San Francisco Mountain Bike Trail.
  • Washington, D.C.: Bike Washington is a great place to get information on trails all around the D.C. area. Just across the river is the popular Mount Vernon Trail. It's multi-use and sometimes crowded, but always a hit.  If you want to venture out a little farther bike the C&O towpath, head to Great Falls, or try the W&OD rail trail between Shirlington and Purcelville.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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