Monday, December 12, 2022

Two Wheels, Big Dreams


I’m tempted to call it The Miracle of the Bicycles. What Free Bikes 4 Kidz Maryland has done since its founding in 2019 is extraordinary. 

Free Bikes 4 Kidz is a nonprofit organization geared toward helping all kids ride into a happier, healthier childhood by providing bikes to those most in need. We collect bicycles starting in October, refurbish them with dozens of volunteers, and give them away to kids in need in December.

After their most recent giveaway weekend they’ve reached a total of 3715 bikes collected, refurbished, and put into the hands of local children. 

Free Bikes 4 Kidz Maryland is the brainchild of Dr. Edward (Ted) Cochran. He describes himself as having been “a year round bicycle commuter and transit advocate” during his years in Minneapolis where he worked for Honeywell Research and Development. Raised in Clarksville, he returned upon his retirement and soon after put his vision to connect local kids with bikes into action.

Photo credit: Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun

There’s no way that one person with an idea - - no matter how good the idea may be - - could accomplish something this big. If you take a look at their Facebook page, you begin to get an idea of the many people involved in bringing a project like this to fruition. 

First you have to find an institution with enough a large enough space who is willing to house all the bikes while they are being collected and refurbished.  And of course you need to connect with people who can donate bicycles they don’t need anymore. Lots of them. You need a team of volunteers to receive the bikes. Judging from the healthy list of partners and sponsors, there’s fundraising and grant writing going on, as well.

You will need someone or someone(s) is behind the scenes managing the work flow. What are the steps? What will be done when? Which work can only be done by those with true bicycle expertise, and what can be done by the average group of willing helpers?

Then you need to find and schedule the volunteers qualified to assess each bike, clean it, and fix it up. From local cycling teams, biking enthusiasts, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, volunteers from local businesses…I’m not sure if the impressive number here is the number or bikes or the number of people who participate from start to finish. 

Maybe it’s not the Miracle of the Bicycles but rather the Ministry of the Bicycles. So many people are involved, working as small parts of a much larger whole. They’re all working towards this day:

All images from Free Bikes 4 Kidz Facebook Page

This day marks the end of what has become an annual cycle for this homegrown nonprofit. But it’s the beginning for each child who rides away with the gift of a bicycle. I’d love to know what their stories are like. Does a new bike bring adventure? Fun? A new sense of confidence or independence? I hope so.

Did you learn to ride a bike as a child? Do you have happy memories of riding? Are you still an active cyclist today? Let me know.

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