There is nothing quite as exhilarating as riding a bike.
Steve Genik, founder of ReCyclers: Bikes for Kids, knows this all too well.
“A bike means freedom,” Genik said. “When I was a kid, parents told us to get outside and play, and we’d be gone on our bikes the whole day.”
The idea to fix up used bicycles and give them away to kids in need dawned on him while he was collecting scrap metal a few years ago.
There’d always be a bunch of bikes in the stuff headed for the landfill. That is, until he came up with a unique way to put those unwanted bikes to good use, with a little tinkering help from his talented and caring friends.
ReCyclers: Bikes for Kids has successfully managed to “recycle” an astounding 450 bicycles in the past five years, and give them away for free.
Genik says he does it for the priceless smiles.
“It’s more fun to do that than a lot of other things,” Genik said. “It’s so rewarding. When you see them happy, it’s a great feeling. You can’t buy that.”
Genik, who lives in Aldergrove, said he collects donations of bikes from across the Lower Mainland, and then distributes them all over as well, from Vancouver to Kelowna. About 80 per cent are given away to kids.
So far this year they have given out about 70 bikes in Chilliwack.
The ReCyclers also hosted volunteer workshops in Chilliwack on several Saturdays over the past year, where volunteers were kept busy repairing, cleaning or stripping down the bikes, restoring them to almost new and gleaming condition.
Then they try to match the bikes to the kids – or sometimes adults — who need them most.
“Although we don’t discriminate or ask if people are low-income, everybody needs help once in a while,” Genik said. “I’ve needed help at times in my life. Sometimes all people need is a push in the right direction.”
And a bike can do that in some cases.
“Plus everyone has bikes laying around that they are not using,” Genik said.
They get a few messages a week coming in through the ReCyclers: Bikes for Kids Facebook page from folks who know someone in need of a bike.
“Right now we’re expanding and taking on more volunteers,” Genik says. “And we can always use more bike mechanics.”
It’s not just children on the receiving end of the bikes. They also give them away occasionally to seniors, single moms, homeless, and temporary farm workers. It’s based on the honour system. If someone says they need one, they’ll see what they can do.
“Over the years we try to help everyone we can. Even if it’s just a minor repair here or there I’ll do it. I carry my tools around with me. I’m a softie and I don’t really say ‘no’ very often,” Genik admitted.
His friends are drawn to help out as well, and several from Chilliwack have pitched in.
ReCyclers volunteer and avid cyclist Lee Phillipson organized and ran the Bike Zone at Party in the Park on July 19 which focused on cyclist safety with the help of other volunteers, and a dozen of the refurbished bikes.
“Riding a bike is a healthy, practical way to get around town so it made perfect sense to us to connect Recyclers Bikes for kids with our existing cycling community,” Phillipson said.
“We decided to host a ‘Bike Zone’ at Party In The Park this summer and received fantastic community support in bringing together this large event.”
All of the bikes came with new helmets, lights, bells and locks. They pulled it off in partnership with Cycle Chilliwack, Cycling Without Age, Fraser Valley Brain Injury Association, Valley Cycle Locksmiths, Chilliwack Dogwood Monarch Lions and many local volunteers.
“It was heartwarming to watch the happiness on the kids’ faces as they tried out their new bike for the first time,” Phillipson said. “We all had a great time coming together to bring this cycling event to our neighbourhood.”
“We even got friends out for a few rides who hadn’t been on a bike in over 10 years. I encourage everyone to get involved, and volunteer, it’s worth it.”