Thousands of Tires to roll for Free Bikes 4 Kidz

Submitted photo Volunteers from the 2017 New Ulm Bike Collection. From left to right: Jean Wolfe, Mason Buegler, Jaxon Buegler, Carisa Buegler, Mary Johanneck, Jen Maurer, Scott Maurer, Kelsi Maurer, Joan Rubischko, Eileen Campbell, Bryer Hoffmann, Aftyn Hoffmann and Mary Braulick.

“Free Bikes 4 Kidz” is a local nonprofit that started 10 years ago in a small Twin Cities garage. Ever since the organization has been founded, it has given away 50,000 bikes to local kids and the organizers hope to collect even more to fix up and give away during this holiday season.

Executive Director Tia Martinson explains how the project came to be:

“It started in 2008 with Terry Esau, who is the founder of Free Bikes 4 Kidz. He was approached by someone from his church community about this family, whose kid wanted a bike for Christmas but the family couldn’t afford it. So they asked Terry if he had a bike that they could gift to that family. Terry and a few friends of his decided to look into their garages and see what they had stored there and they found not only one bike, but several ones. They collected these bikes, asked friends and neighbors and other people whether they had bikes to spare and then repaired and refurbished over 250 bikes, which they then gave away in the community. Allina Health then has joined us for the last eight years, which has made a huge difference and they are really doing fantastic work with us.”

Bikes are not just a method of transportation for Martinson. She says that giving the bikes to kids is also a method to increase activity and to help kids lead a healthier life.

“I recently got an email from this one mother who said that she is so grateful that her son just got his second bike from us — his first one was unfortunately stolen. But the mother said she could see how much it helped her son to have this bike. He has become more active, his relationship with his brother has improved and after the first bike got stolen, he also learned to take care of his stuff and to be more responsible.” She further adds that “I believe that bikes are a great way of encouraging kids to be more active, to become more focused and to reduce their screen time while increasing their active time. It is a good way for them to learn healthy habits, that will help them be more happy and healthier in their later life.”

Martinson adds about the collection process that “Kids come in all different shapes and sizes and they grow so fast, so we try to reuse and recycle as many bikes as we possibly can, with no limit on the size of the bikes. So everyone who wants to donate a bike is welcome to do so. We will take every bike, even if we only can use some of the parts to repair other bikes. The helpers from Allina will collect the bikes and clean them. Around 3,000 volunteers will then repair and refurbish the bikes from October to November and we will then distribute the bikes in December. We managed to collect and give away 10,000 bikes in 2017 alone, which was a great success for us.”

The recipients of the bikes are chosen by partner organizations in the various communities that Free Bikes 4 Kidz is active in. These organizations are, like FB4K, non-profit and consist of food shelves, schools, community groups, churches and many more, who notify FB4K about potential beneficiaries. The bikes are distributed by these organizations, too. In New Ulm, FB4K partners for example with Sertoma Club at New Ulm’s Santa’s Closet event.

On Saturday, Oct. 6, FB4K and Allina Health volunteers will be hard at work at the New Ulm Medical Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to collect bikes. Martinson’s message to the New Ulm people is “We love New Ulm as a collection site – we have been collecting there for eight years, have made great experiences there and we are looking forward to supply some of the local kids with bikes, too. So tell your friends, clean out your garages and bring your bikes!”