Jacobs grad donates 70 bikes to Boys and Girls Club of Dundee Twp.
During his inaugural bicycle giveaway nearly a year ago, Justin Lorenz watched the joy on the faces of two eighth-grade sisters as they received their first set of wheels.
Then, to his surprise, they asked him how to ride it.
Lorenz recognized that many underprivileged kids and teens in the Dundee area might not be able to afford a bicycle of their own — the impetus for launching his Pedal Empowerment initiative months earlier. But it hadn't occurred to him that some have never ridden one.
“That was really a life-changing experience there,” 18-year-old Lorenz recalled as one key moment that prompted him to organize another giveaway before heading off to college this fall.
The Jacobs High School graduate collected more than 70 gently used bikes this summer for members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dundee Township. Kids and teens gathered at the club's Carpentersville headquarters Wednesday afternoon to be fitted for bikes — in a range of sizes and styles — on a first-come, first-served basis.
“A bicycle is the key to independence. It's a pathway to freedom,” Lorenz said. “That's how I came up with my idea, and that's why I aim to keep ... providing that pathway of freedom to these kids.”
Similar to last year's process, Lorenz has spent the past few months spreading the word about Pedal Empowerment, particularly through social media, and picking up bikes from community members who responded. Main Street Bicycles in Carpentersville and Sammy's Bikes in St. Charles also acted as drop-off locations, he said, and Main Street even helped him store the bikes and fix up some in need of repair.
It was a lot of work, Lorenz said, but in the end, he collected far more than the 40 bikes he had initially expected.
“For him to take the time out of his life to donate back (to the community) is just amazing,” said Vicki Frantz, marketing director for the Boys and Girls Club. “It's an 18-year-old really thinking outside of his own world. ... Hopefully the kids see that and aspire to be like that.”
Lorenz heads off to Duke University in North Carolina this fall, but his Pedal Empowerment efforts won't end when he leaves his hometown, he said. He hopes to start a bike collection in college, and has been talking with members of his local triathlon team about starting branches of the organization in other parts of the suburbs.
As a three-sport athlete in high school who grew up riding bikes and competing in triathlons, Lorenz's goal is offering similar experiences to children who are less fortunate.
“I got to see the privilege I had,” he said. “I wanted to be able to give that to the kids around me.”