Every year, 20 Tucson cyclists volunteer their time to Wheels for Kids, a nonprofit organization that acquires bikes, fixes them and donates them to charities and organization throughout the city.
Founder Dick Swain’s vision for Wheels for Kids stemmed from his passion for cycling as well as his involvement in Seniors for Kids, an organization that makes toys for disadvantaged children. In 2007, Swain turned his vision into a reality. He was able to gather more than 10 volunteers from his cycling group of Vistoso Cyclists – all of which were bike mechanics.
Over the years, Wheels for Kids has donated more than 700 bikes and kept true to its mission: to put a smile on the face of kids who didn’t think they would ever get to experience the joy of riding their own bike.
“It really means a lot when we get a letter from a kid,” said Rick Haupt, president of the organization. “It’s really nice when we do because we tell the mechanic who fixed the bike and that means a lot to them.”
October through May is the busiest time of year at the organization. Bikes that are donated need to be in fairly good condition. Bikes that are dirty, have minor scratches, old tires, and a few old parts are accepted. Wheels for Kids will replace tires, chains, handle bar grips and brake pads. Once a bike is received a volunteer will refurbish it at their home.
“When we receive a bike we take it all apart. People who assemble them are sometimes in a hurry,” said Haupt. “We put it all back together with the necessary parts.”
Some of the charities and organizations that Wheels for Kids has worked with are Tu Nidito, Greater Arizona Bicycling Association (GABA), El Grupo and Sisters Connection.
“The organizations we work with sort out who is the most deserving and that’s who we give the bikes too,” said Haupt. “We want kids bikes though not adult bikes donated to us.”
People can drop-off bikes at any of the three Oro Valley Bicycle locations, Perimeter Bicycling or GABA. If people don’t have a bike to donate they can give money online, write a check to Wheels for Kids at the address of PO Box 68711 Tucson, AZ 85737 or deposit money into the Wheels for Kids account at any Chase Bank. Wheels for Kids is a 501(c)(3) organization. For more information visit www.azwfk.org.