Gift of freedom: Teen collects 60 bikes for Dundee Boys and Girls Clubs
More than 60 kids and teens in the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dundee Township received their own bicycles Thursday, thanks to an initiative launched this summer by 17-year-old Justin Lorenz.
Lorenz, a senior at Jacobs High School, started Pedal Empowerment a few months ago with the intention of collecting gently used bikes for at-risk youths in his community. As a three-sport athlete who also competes in triathlons, he wanted to provide an outlet, a mode of transportation and a sense of independence to kids who might not have the same opportunities.
When he began his outreach efforts, Lorenz was hoping for at least 30 bikes. He was thrilled when he ended up doubling his goal.
"It feels amazing. When I first started the project, I didn't think it'd get to the caliber that it did," said Lorenz, an unincorporated Dundee Township resident. "It feels so good to give kids something they might not be able to get on their own and give them that freedom."
With help from his dad, Lorenz spent the past several weeks picking up bicycles after school and carefully checking to make sure each one worked properly. Any bikes with issues were brought to Main Street Bicycles in Carpentersville and fixed by owner Jeff Provisor.
Lorenz also took pictures of each bike and created a document to keep track of his inventory. The list, categorized by size and style, was sent to Boys and Girls Club leaders, who then paired each bike with a club member.
"This is great for our organization," said Mike Berger, the club's vice president of operations. "It's a lot of work on (Justin's) end getting all these bikes prepared and getting them to us in a timely fashion."
On Thursday, Lorenz brought the bikes to the club's Carpentersville office, where they were presented to members ranging from first grade to high school. Recipients were chosen based on need, leadership skills and program participation, Berger said.
Lorenz doesn't plan on stopping there. By next spring or summer, he hopes to have collected another round of bikes to give away.
To Berger, that's the sign of a strong leader.
"There's just so much other stuff he could be doing, but he chooses to help other people," Berger said. "I think that says a lot about his character."