NORTH LAWNDALE — A collective of non-profit organizations believe a bicycle can go a long way when it comes to making sure kids have something positive to do during summer months in Chicago.
"Cycle of Peace" gave out 500 refurbished bicycles to North Lawndale children Saturday. The event took place at North Lawndale College Prep's Collins Campus (formerly Collins High School), located at 1313 S. Sacramento Ave.
Paul Fitzgerald, general manager for Working Bikes, one of the organizations involved, believes in the overall effort to get kids involved with bikes.
"We view sustainable transportation access as a social justice issue," Fitzgerald said. "For us to partner with a network of organizations who are building alternatives to the criminal justice system, it is important."
All of the bikes given out were repaired by Working Bikes volunteers and staff, and included a helmet and a lock.
The bikes are appropriate for children ages 5-12 and were given, on a first-come, first-served basis, to children from the area who arrived at the event with a parent or guardian holding a valid state ID with a North Lawndale address.
Recipients also took a bike safety class and completed an obstacle course before leaving with their new ride.
To make such a donation possible, Working Bikes partnered with the North Lawndale Restorative Justice Hub, the 10th District CAPS explorer program, the TAG Foundation and Chicago Bikes ambassadors, along with North Lawndale College Prep students.
John Horan, the school's principal, says it was a given that an event like this would be held at the school.
"This is a public school, so the school being able to host giving away 500 bikes is great for volunteers at the school," Horan said. "This is great for the neighborhood and 500 kids can experience Christmas in June."
Working Bikes believes that bicycling and outdoor activity are an important part of community health, well-being and positive development.
Trevor Clarke, general counsel and a volunteer mechanic with Working Bikes, told DNAinfo that his organization's hope is that these donations empower the next generation of cyclists to explore their community in order to find sustainable solutions.
"It's important to serve the community that we are in every day," Clarke said. "It feels great to donate to our neighbors. Exciting things are happening in North Lawndale now."
Carol White brought her grandson Christian Watts, 3, to the event to get a bike. She says the giveaway came at great time for her family.
"That's money saved so I don't have to spend for a bike. That helps out a whole lot," White said. "I'm so happy for the kids. I thank God for people for donating stuff like this."
Tajan Harris, a North Lawndale resident, brought her daughter and two of her nephews to the event so they could pick up a healthy hobby this summer.
"They love to bike. It's great for my other nephew because the doctor said he's obese, so riding a bike is good exercise for him," Harris said.
In 2014, Working Bikes donated 500 bikes to the children in Bronzeville, and they hope to continue these neighborhood-based donations on a biannual basis.
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