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Mike Sinyard found a way to conquer his ADHD. Then he built a multi-million dollar company around it. As the legend goes, Sinyard, the founder and chairman of Specialized Bicycle Components, used to have trouble concentrating and focusing on tasks but found that bicycling regularly seemed to somehow diffuse those symptoms. Over the last three and a half decades his improved attention and clarity—and of course his passion for the sport—have propelled Specialized toward an estimated $500 million in annual sales.
To continue growing, Specialized needs to draw more young riders into that sport. But within the company, there’s been worry about what else happens if they don’t. Today, many kids with ADHD are being treated pharmacologically without much thought to whether physical activity might be another outlet: Nearly 11% of school-aged children are now diagnosed with ADHD, a 41% increase over the last decade. Since 2007, there’s been a 26% jump the prescription rate for treatment.
So in 2015, Specialized launched the Specialized Foundation, a nonprofit that donates bikes, helmets, and service gear to middle schools for use in P.E. classes through a program called Riding For Focus. In July, that foundation announced a major expansion: It’s moving into 20 new schools this fall to reach a total of 36 schools in more than a dozen states, including California, Texas, Louisiana, and New York.
Specialized wants to reach 200 schools by 2020. To do so, it’s soliciting for matching grants from community groups—the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation, for instance, just backed two Bay Area schools—and will partner with other retailers if necessary to make up any product shortfalls. It generally gives about 30 bikes per school, but when one school in Virginia recently needed 50 for kids, the foundation enlisted competitor Giant bicycles to cover the difference.