Hard work and dedication pay off with a new dirt bike for Black Mountain teen

Sarah Thomas
Special to Black Mountain News
Black Mountain Home resident Johnny, center, receives a dirt bike from Honda, which was donated through Makson, Inc. owner David Eller, left of center.

Staff at Black Mountain Home for Children, Youth & Families (BMH) take pride in meeting youth entrusted to them “where they are.”

Youth often come to the ministry after being removed from their homes due to challenges and hardships no child should face. To help them heal, recover, and discover their promise, staff works to learn what will inspire and encourage each child.

For 17-year-old Johnny, that turned out to be NYPUM—the National Youth Project Using Minibikes. The program, sponsored by Honda, began in 1969 as an innovative way to engage youth and promote positive development. Young people not only learn to ride safely, but also learn to work together as a team and grow in responsibility and confidence.

Part of NYPUM for five years, Johnny had excelled in the program but was struggling with poor grades and challenging behaviors. Hoping to find a tool to motivate him behaviorally and educationally, staff reached out for permission for Johnny to fulfill a dream by not just learning to ride and maintain dirt bikes but to race them as well. After jumping through quite a few hoops staff was able to get approval for him to start racing in the local Mid-East Hare Scramble Series.

Johnny worked with staff to create a list of commitments that he would make to earn the opportunity to race, as well as the commitments BMH would make so that racing would be possible for him.

A donor supplied a used 2008 Kawasaki xf250 for him to ride. Companies donated work on the suspension as well as new graphics. Since starting racing Johnny has had no significant behavioral issues, has stepped up as a leader on campus, and has brought his GPA at school up from a 2.25 to his most recent report card of 3.5.

But something even better was in store for Johnny.

The NYPUM program at the children’s home has been actively supported by David Eller, owner of Makson Inc. as well as The Phoenix Racing Honda team out of Charlotte. Eller has been instrumental in multiple construction projects at the children’s home, including building the NYPUM Shop to house the program and serve as a safe place for youth like Johnny to discover their gifts and abilities. Other projects have included the Ray Campbell Independent Living Village and, most recently, the Mountain Home Thrift Store and AutoWorks.

Eller became aware of Johnny and some of the frustrations he experienced with his 11-year-old bike. Mechanical problems caused Johnny to miss some races and struggle at events. In one race, he had trouble starting his bike at the line but refused to give up, in spite of the field having an eight-minute head start. He persisted and worked through the race to earn 5th place in his division.

Learning this, Eller stepped in to see what he could do to help.

“Of course, it killed me that he wasn’t racing a Honda,” Eller said with a laugh. So he worked with his contacts at Honda to donate a brand new bike for Johnny. On Oct. 12, Eller surprised the young man with a gleaming new bike in perfect working order.

Johnny, never overly expressive, gave Eller a hug and his thanks. Then, with a grin big enough to overshadow a lot of past hurts, he and his older brother began to examine every inch of his new Honda motorbike.