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posted: 5/19/2014 11:24 AM

The gift of wheels: Needy kids benefit from donated bikes

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  • Wayne Mikes donates a bike to the Palatine Opportunity Center, received by Debbie Rohrwasser of Palatine, a volunteer with the Center.

      Wayne Mikes donates a bike to the Palatine Opportunity Center, received by Debbie Rohrwasser of Palatine, a volunteer with the Center.
    courtesy OF THE Palatine Opportunity Center

  • Lisa Johnson of the YMCA helps fit Laura Hernandez with her first bike last fall at the Palatine Opportunity Center. Laura didn't win a bike at the Day of Giving, but Wayne Mikes brought bikes in spring for those children who did not get one in November.

      Lisa Johnson of the YMCA helps fit Laura Hernandez with her first bike last fall at the Palatine Opportunity Center. Laura didn't win a bike at the Day of Giving, but Wayne Mikes brought bikes in spring for those children who did not get one in November.
    courtesy OF THE Palatine Opportunity Center

  • Volunteers stage bikes donated by Mikes Bike Shop in Palatine before the Day of Giving last November organized by Palatine Assisting Through Hope.

      Volunteers stage bikes donated by Mikes Bike Shop in Palatine before the Day of Giving last November organized by Palatine Assisting Through Hope.
    courtesy OF THE Palatine Opportunity Center

 

Wayne Mikes, the second generation owner of Mikes Bike Shop in Palatine, goes about it quietly, but over the years he and his employees have restored and donated something like 3,000 bikes to needy families.

Most of them go to residents of Palatine Township, who need bikes to get to work or school, but some have gone as far as Africa through churches and nonprofits that Mikes supports, such as Bright Hope in Hoffman Estates and St. Vincent de Paul Society in Schaumburg.

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His latest donation took place last month, and resulted in a Palatine boy with a new bike and big smile on his face.

The child had outgrown his training wheels and desperately hoped for a new "big boy" bike, but medical issues had put a severe strain on his family and prevented his parents from granting his wish.

They declined to be identified for this story, but Kathy Millin, executive director of the Palatine Opportunity Center, knows the family firsthand. The boy's mother works as one of her promotoras de salud, or health promoters, and mentors other women at the center.

The Palatine Opportunity Center regularly helps families in Palatine Township access social services, health programs, classes and governmental agencies, handling more than 200,000 client visits per year.

But Millin and her staff rely on the generosity of local businesses and individuals to help those families in crisis situations.

Mikes Bike Shop in Palatine is one of those businesses, Millin says.

The shop's latest gift "made me think of how many bikes this man has fixed and given to the (Palatine Opportunity Center) and (Palatine Assisting Through Hope) over the years," Millin says. "We realized that he has been supporting us for 10 years with his generous time and donations."

Debbie Rohrwasser of Palatine is one of the coordinators of Palatine Assisting Through Hope. The organization held its eighth annual Day of Giving last November, and once again, bikes from Mikes Bike Shop were featured.

According to Rohrwasser, Mikes donates more than 35 bikes every year, which organizers raffle off. The winners are thrilled, but Rohrwasser finds just as much satisfaction in the bikes that Mikes comes up with when emergencies occur.

"We focus on crisis situations," Rohrwasser says. "At times we'll be working a case and learn that a bike would benefit a family member to get to and from work or school.

"Mikes Bike Shop is my first call," Rohrwasser adds, "and he has always found us a solution to help a family that appreciates a helping hand."

Wayne Mikes says he started donating to the Day of Giving (held the weekend after Thanksgiving each year) to ensure children would have bikes for Christmas, but increasingly he sees his bikes going to adults in the family who need them.

"The primary goal was to provide transportation," Mikes says, "but I still love to bring enjoyment to children."

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