Pedal Power: Campaign provides bikes to kids in need
When you're a kid with a bicycle, you can answer the call of the open trail and revel in the freedom and independence only a bike owner knows.
But not every kid is so lucky.
Hoping to bring the thrill and fun of riding to children less fortunate than themselves, two Elmhurst students are partnering with a local business to add a West suburban stop to a bicycle donation drive on Saturday, Nov. 11.
Used bicycles, collected from 9 a.m. until noon at Stemple's Cycle Center on Spring Road, will be transported to the Cesar Chavez Multicultural Academic Center in Chicago, where they will be presented to high-performing students later this month.
"Kids can't really drive yet," said Grant Schleiter, 13, a seventh-grader at Immaculate Conception Grade School in Elmhurst. "Bicycles are the main thing. I love my bike. I ride it everywhere."
"I do like bicycling a lot," said his sister, Lauren, 14, a freshman at Fenwick High School in Oak Park. "I find it really fun to go out on the Prairie Path."
Their mother, Dori, said her children enthusiastically embraced the idea of expanding Pedal Power, an annual used bike drive started 10 years ago by two Wilmette children, Nicole and Bennett Basil.
"They thought it was a great opportunity to help kids less fortunate than they are," she said.
The Schleiter children were introduced to the idea by their father, John, who heard about it from his friend Mike Basil, Nicole and Bennett's father.
"They were so excited and they wanted to help out," Dori said.
Basil said his daughter, now a senior at New Trier High School, was looking for a way to dispose of an old bike when she was in third grade. But she couldn't locate a charity that would accept it.
"So, she decided to start her own," he said.
The idea took off. Later, eight more drop-off locations were added along the North Shore and in the Northwest suburbs. The Elmhurst location will bring the total to 10.
Grant set up a meeting with Stemple's manager about two months ago.
"I had some butterflies in my stomach," he said. "The guy was super nice."
The manager immediately agreed to make Stemple's a collection point.
Grant and his sister then launched a publicity campaign.
"I went to my pastor at our school. I also went to the principal," he said.
The bicycle drive was promoted in the church bulletin and through school communication channels.
Lauren said she talked up the event with friends and spread the word via social media. She also took a shoe-leather approach.
"I went downtown to our town square and handed out fliers," she said. "I was really excited. I wanted to do a charity for a long time. It was something I could do, it wasn't too easy or too hard."
"We were just looking for a way to give back," said Grant. "This was the perfect way."
The family will load the donated bikes into vans and drive them to the Chicago school, where they will be distributed to students who have excelled academically.
"The Honor Roll assembly is for kids who got all As and Bs," said Mike Basil. "If you got all As, you are definitely getting a bike."
Students who got a combination of As and Bs are eligible for a raffle drawing for the remaining bikes, he said.
Basil said Divvy Bikes has agreed to donate the use of its trucks to help haul the bikes. Helmets purchased through a grant from the Evanston Bicycle Club will be given to bicycle winners, he said.
Dori said Stemple's will inspect each donated bicycle dropped off in Elmhurst and make any necessary minor repairs.
All bikes will be inspected for safety, Basil said. Through an arrangement with Chicago Public Schools, bicycles that are beyond repair or need extensive work will be donated to the Northside Learning Center High School, where students with cognitive disabilities will use them to learn about bicycle repair, he said.
Since its inception, Pedal Power has collected around 3,000 bicycles, taking in between 250 to 300 each fall, Basil said. Bicycle donations are tax deductible.
"A used bike represents a kind of stranded value. This way of disposing of it, you know it's going to a good cause," he said. "It ends up being a very easy sell. You get value, your garage gets cleaned up. Everybody wins."