December 8, 2019

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Opinion

Putting the pedal to the metal

Bike-building marathon brings community together to helpchildren in need

SHANNON VANRAES / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Robert Schulz Sr. and his children, Chanel, 11, and Robert Jr., 14, volunteer at the WRENCH (Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub).</p>

SHANNON VANRAES / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Robert Schulz Sr. and his children, Chanel, 11, and Robert Jr., 14, volunteer at the WRENCH (Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub).

Staff and volunteers at a community bicycle repair shop are aiming to make Christmas special for hundreds of children by giving them the gift of cycling.

The WRENCH (Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub), an organization dedicated to making bicycles and cycling accessible to everyone, is holding its ninth annual Cycle of Giving event on Dec. 7. The 24-hour event will bring volunteer mechanics together to build more than 350 bicycles that will be distributed to children in need.

The bike-building marathon takes place at the Orioles Community Centre at 448 Burnell St.

Longtime WRENCH volunteer Robert Schulz Sr. looks forward to volunteering at Cycle of Giving each year.

For Schulz, it’s an opportunity to do something meaningful with his two children, Robert Jr., 14, and Chanel, 11.

"This whole Cycle of Giving has allowed me to be a good dad… by spending time with (my children) and interacting with them doing the same activity," Schulz says. "It’s drawn us closer together in a lot of ways."

A dedicated cyclist, Schulz is proud to say that each bicycle his family owns has been built at the WRENCH. His children are avid cyclists, something Schulz has encouraged because it contributes to environmental sustainability.

Schulz is a teacher at École Luxton School, an elementary school in the North End. He works with a small class that’s typically made up of about eight boys, and his volunteerism at the WRENCH has influenced his work in the classroom.

Each year, Schulz’s students build bicycles for themselves. They also build an additional bicycle that is gifted to a student they have never met.

"It’s a magical day here at Luxton when the bikes are given out," Schulz says. "What a great way to teach empathy, humility and sustainability."

Like Schulz, Kim Segal is looking forward to this year’s Cycle of Giving. Each year, the self-employed massage therapist tries to spend as many hours at the event as possible.

"You meet so many different people from all walks of life," Segal says. "I love the fact that at the WRENCH, everybody is equal."

Watching the pile of finished bikes grow during Cycle of Giving is exciting, she adds.

"It’s emotional when you think of all the people that are benefiting from this. I can’t think of many things I have been involved with where it’s such an incredibly good feeling of giving back."

In addition to volunteer bike mechanics, Cycle of Giving relies on volunteer bike cleaners, card makers, food servers and site crew who help set up, maintain and tear down the workshop.

Anyone interested in volunteering can visit thewrench.ca/cycle-of-giving-2019 for details.

In conjunction with the event, the WRENCH is raising $30,000 for its year-round programming, says Patrick Krawec, the organization’s managing director. People can donate at thewrench.ca.

Donations of children’s bicycles and parts are also welcome.

Cycle of Giving is a joyful celebration for those who participate, Krawec says, adding that the gift of a bicycle can help the recipient imagine a better tomorrow.

"The impact of these bicycles in the community cannot be overstated," he says.

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.

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