Jacobs grad helps underprivileged children get first bicycles
Learning to ride a bicycle is a key childhood milestone. Yet, for some suburban children, the privilege of owning one is beyond their reach.
That's where Justin Lorenz hopes he can make a difference within the communities of his native Dundee Township -- one bicycle at a time.
A three-sport athlete and recent graduate of Jacobs High School, Lorenz seeks to share his passion for cycling with underprivileged children who otherwise might not be able to afford one through an organization he founded, Pedal Empowerment.
Last summer, Justin collected 80 donated bicycles -- worth about $10,000 -- for children of varying ages at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dundee Township in Carpentersville.
"It was really just a great thing to be able to provide a gift of freedom," said Justin, 17. "It's a very humbling experience," he added as he spoke of helping two eighth-grade girls who never had a bicycle.
"They had to learn how to ride," Justin said. "My mom was helping them while I was helping hand out the bikes."
At Jacobs, Justin participated in cross country, swimming and track. He has been a triathlete since age 6 and grew up with bicycles.
"There's a lot of other things that a senior who is a three-sport athlete could be focusing on," said Mike Berger, vice president of operations for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dundee Township, "but he still has time to focus on giving back to the community and giving back to kids that were less fortunate than he was growing up.
"He is mature beyond his years and to be able to have that vision and foresight to think of a project like that, and then to actually do the effort … that just shows the leadership skills that he developed as a teenager."
Many of the children served by the clubs don't have bicycles of their own.
"For a kid, having a bike -- it's kind of a right of passage," Berger said. "It gives you a sense of independence."
Justin doesn't just collect the bicycles. He fixes and cleans them to be in the best of shape, bringing joy and smiles to the faces of many children, Berger added.
Justin is collecting bicycles again this summer. His goal is to deliver 40 of them before he heads to college at Duke University in North Carolina where he plans to study electrical and computer engineering and computer science. He was awarded the Foot Locker Scholar Athlete scholarship for $20,000 -- given to 20 students nationwide each year.
He hopes to pass the bicycle baton to fellow triathletes on his club team and perhaps start a bicycle collection drive at Duke.
Bicycle donations for Pedal Empowerment can be dropped off at Main Street Bicycles in downtown Carpentersville or Sammy's Bikes in St. Charles or by emailing Justin at firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate money for new bicycles, visit pedalempowerment.com.
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