Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dreaming of a bike Christmas

Cycle of Giving volunteers work 'round the clock to make Christmas more shiny for 250 kids

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MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Volunteers get together at the Orioles Community Centre for a 24-hour bike repair marathon. Over 250 bicycles were repaired for children whose families can't afford to buy one for Christmas.

More than 250 children whose families wouldn't be able to afford to buy a bike will be getting refurbished ones under the Christmas tree thanks to an army of volunteers at a 24-hour bike-repair marathon.

Volunteers organized by WRENCH, which stands for Winnipeg Repair, Education and Cycling Hub, were able to refurbish more than 250 bikes during its third annual Cycle of Giving bike-building marathon during the weekend.

"It's nice to think of that child who will get a bike all shiny," volunteer Kate MacKay said Sunday as she put the final touches on a small, purple two-wheeler a young child could soon be riding. "There's few things as rewarding as teaching a kid to ride a bike. It's a confidence-builder and it is an important step.

"I've been volunteering since noon and I will be here next year and the year after," MacKay said.

For 24 hours starting Saturday at 6 p.m., the gymnasium inside the Orioles Community Centre at 448 Burnell St. was transformed into a bicycle repair shop.

Pat Krawec, WRENCH's executive director, said 900 bicycles were taken out of the Brady Road Landfill earlier this year and brought to the community centre. The bikes included kids bikes, tricycles, 10-speeds, and mountain bikes.

"The bikes that need the least work go first," Krawec said. "If you're going to put out 250 bikes that work well, you don't have time to work on something that's been in a landfill for a year-and-a-half already or used by someone's big brother."

At one end outside the community centre, hundreds of bicycles sat in snow waiting to be worked on. At the other end of the centre, repaired bikes, cleaned and shined, were parked back into the snow before being picked up by several organizations, including Newcomer Employment Education Development Services (NEEDS Inc.), which will distribute bicycles to immigrant and refugee children, youth and families they support.

Krawec said the volunteers include mechanics from bicycle repair shops and ordinary Winnipeggers who fix their own bikes.

He said bicycles not repaired now will be taken to be fixed up by inmates at Headingley Correctional Centre and then distributed across the province.

Nearby, Richard Helbig, a science and mathematics teacher at Hugh John Macdonald School, an inner-city junior high school -- who also runs an after-school bicycle repair club -- said it's great to be able to fix so many bikes.

"I'm mostly making sure everything on it is tight -- it's probably better now than when the first owner took it home," Helbig said.

Across from him, two students, 13-year-old John Nai and his 15-year-old brother, Jack, said they appreciate coming in to help other children get a bicycle.

"It's great -- last year I got a bike so I know what it's like," John said.

"It's fun -- I enjoy doing this and helping out," Jack said.

On the other side of the room, past boxes full of bicycle seats and other assorted parts, Jayson Gillespie was using a special tool to tighten the spokes on the wheels of a tricycle. When not on his knees repairing a used tricycle, Gillespie is coach of the Manitoba Provincial Cycling team.

"This is different than the high-end bikes we use," Gillespie said laughing. "These have had lots of wear and tear. But you can ride this in the basement -- you don't have to ride it outside."

WRENCH is still accepting monetary donations at thewrench.ca or by mailing a cheque to the WRENCH, 1057 Logan Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R3E 3N8.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 16, 2013 B1

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Updated on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:34 AM CST: Replaces photo, adds slideshow

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