Freedom on Wheels: Recycle Bikes for Kids Founder Rides Down Memory Lane
Just before Christmas in 2007, I was watching the local evening news when a story came on about the Little Rock FOP (Fraternal Order of Police). They had taken all of the unclaimed bicycles from the police department, repaired them and donated them to a local charity to distribute to needy kids.
Watching that short report brought back all the memories of my first bike and how important it was to me. There were three of us boys and one little sister. Buying that many new bikes was out of the question. But my mom and dad did manage to find some used bikes that fit us. We didn’t care. They were ours and we had a new freedom. The Optimist ball field, the Saline County fairgrounds, the Saline River and friends from school were now much closer. I took advantage of it, riding that bike everywhere.
Sitting there watching that story on the news, I resolved to buy 100 bikes before the next Christmas and find a charity to give them to. I figured I could find bikes for $25 each, which didn’t seem like much to make a kid happy.
I mentioned my plan to some friends and while they liked the idea, I’m not certain they thought I would follow through with it. And I almost didn’t. I kept putting it off until I thought it might be too late. But on July 31, 2008, I bought the first bike. I found it through an ad in the paper: a purple girl’s bike in Jacksonville, $35.
My first bike and I was already over budget. But a funny thing happened—when I told friends that I had bought that first bike, many told me they had bicycles I could have. Within three months, I had collected over 400 bikes. Luckily, I had some warehouse space where I could store them. With the help of volunteers, we managed to repair and give away over 300 bikes that first year.
Since then, Recycle Bikes for Kids has grown every year. To date, we have given away over 10,000 bicycles, hired a full-time director, received our 501(c)(3) approval and our shop is still full of bikes to be given away.
I keep a picture of that first bike on my desk to remind me that taking that first step can make a difference not only in your life but in the lives of 10,000 kids, too.