Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Doing a wheely good thing for kids

Volunteers fix up bikes for needy children

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Have tool kit, will travel.

Bike mechanics from around the city descended upon the Atomic Centre on Logan Avenue over the weekend for a 24-hour blitz of fixing flat tires, lubing up chains and mixing and matching bicycle parts.

When they were done at the second annual Cycle of Giving event -- a number of mechanics worked through the night -- nearly 250 bikes for underprivileged children aged two to 8 had been not only salvaged from the dump and sheds around town, but refurbished so they were as good as new.

"There are more bikes than we have people, so why doesn't everybody have a bike?" asked Pat Krawec, executive director of the Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub (WRENCH) and one of the driving forces behind the Cycle of Giving. "It's bringing everybody closer together. It's a way for us to bridge the divides in our community. It's a beautiful thing."

The bikes will be donated to community-services organizations throughout Winnipeg, such as the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre and the West Central Women's Resource Centre, and doled out from there.

With many of the bikes sure to end up in higher-crime neighbourhoods, WRENCH is hoping its ongoing fundraising efforts -- it's looking to come up with $15,000 -- will also help fund bike locks, helmets, lights and programming for many children. And by putting bikes in the hands of kids who need them most, Krawec is also hoping to reduce the temptation for theft.

About 80 per cent of the bicycles and parts -- which weigh about 1,800 kilograms -- came from the Brady Road landfill.

One of the youngest to be brandishing tools in his grease-stained hands was Seth Belmore, 12. He has been fixing bikes since joining the Bike Lab, a community bike shop run by the University of Winnipeg Students' Association, more than a year ago.

"I can fix pretty much anything," he said, before admitting part of the reason he was volunteering his time Sunday was because he got grounded at home.

"I wanted to help people, too. I'm a nice person. I want kids to stay fit and follow their dreams," he said.

Jason Carter, past president of the Manitoba Cycling Association, spent a good part of Saturday rounding up bikes and spare parts from his buddies' garages. Then, as he was dropping them off on Sunday, he thought he should strap on a tool belt and get to work.

"I figured this is a good way to help people out. I'd rather give a kid a bicycle than a toy gun," he said.

"Everybody can have fun and we can have another life for these bikes."

Dozens of mechanics worked overlapping shifts to rebuild 282 bicycles for Winnipeg children in need during the second annual marathon Cycle of Giving event at the Atomic Centre on Logan Avenue.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 17, 2012 A7


Updated on Monday, December 17, 2012 at 11:03 AM CST: edited

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