A thousand kids have now gotten the chance to spin their spokes thanks to Nanaimo’s Bikes for Kids.
The volunteer group, now in its fifth year, recently surpassed the milestone of 1,000 bikes given out to those in need. Bikes for Kids was at 997 bikes, and then sent a shipment of more than two dozen to the Port McNeill RCMP detachment to pass along to First Nations youths in that area.
“We were ecstatic,” said Greg Nowik, co-founder of Bikes for Kids. “We never thought we’d get to 1,000 bikes.”
He and fellow co-founder Eddie Goncalves started small, working on fixing up bikes in Nowik’s mother-in-law’s garage. The workshop moved to Terminal Park mall and then to its current location downtown, and will be on the move again at the end of September.
There have been thefts and a pandemic, but through it all, the hard work has continued. Fifteen of the group’s most valuable bikes were stolen in a break-in earlier this summer, but Bikes for Kids still has about 350 bicycles in various states of repair. Most are donated directly, including at Nowik Mortgage Team’s office and at DBL Disposal locations in Nanaimo and Parksville. Some bikes come from the RCMP.
“A lot of them come with just a frame, there’s no wheels attached to them, but they have to get rid of them because someone stole the bike and that’s all that’s left,” Goncalves said. “We have to weed through these quite a bit, because it’s a big process to get a good bike out of four not-so-good ones.”
Bikes for Kids has gotten a lot of help. Just last month they had more than a dozen volunteers helping fix up bicycles one night, and they once had 40 people help with a clean-up effort. Coal City Cycles has lent its expertise over the years and Nowik said Bikes for Kids can always use more help from people who know how to fix bicycles.
“It’s really a Nanaimo team effort, so we just want to make sure that people know about it,” Nowik said.
The group is always happy to receive bikes as long as they’re in reasonable working order. Bikes with no working components are likely to end up in the trash, but Nowik said he’s seen kids happy to receive bikes even if they’re scraped-up and rust-spotted.
“If you have a bike, pass it forward,” Goncalves said.
In addition to volunteer help, Bikes for Kids is looking for secure space to store bikes. As for donations, the group isn’t a registered society and can’t accept cash, so those wishing to offer financial support are asked to direct it instead to the Nanaimo Brain Injury Society, which then provides helmets to bike recipients.
For more information about Bikes for Kids, visit www.bikesforkidsvi.ca.