In March, Wheels For Kids delivered about 50 bikes to our partner organizations in Tucson. That put us over 2,100 bikes delivered.
For the March donations we would like to highlight Arizona’s Children Association (Kinship Program) and Literacy Connects’ Reading Seed Program – both new Wheels for Kids community partners. A brief introduction of their programs is included below.
Arizona’s Children Association, Kinship Program (KARE) (https://www.arizonaschildren.org/kinship/).
This program supports caretakers who provide care for their relatives’ children and/or working toward adoption of these children. In Arizona, there are more than 160,000 children living in homes headed by grandparents or other relatives. Our programs help support these very special families and their potential to provide a positive alternative to traditional foster care. Classes, support groups and other activities are held at our Kinship Adoption Resource & Education (KARE) Center in Tucson and other locations around the state. Research indicates that children in kinship care experience greater stability than those in traditional foster care. Kinship caregivers provide love and support in a familiar setting, allowing children to remain connected with their families and communities. They are able to live with people they know and trust, thereby reinforcing their sense of cultural identity and well-being.
Literacy Connects/Reading Seed (est. 1995) recruits and trains volunteer reading coaches to work one-on-one with students in kindergarten through third grade who are reading below grade level. We distribute free books to children and offer a leveled lending library for coaches, teachers and other literacy providers with books that match K-12 students’ interests and reading ability.
Reading Seed supports elementary schools and students by:
- Recruiting and training volunteer reading coaches to work with students in K–5th grade who are reading below grade level.
- Emphasizing reading as a positive experience in a non-judgmental environment.
- Increasing confidence, vocabulary, fluency and reading comprehension in students.
- Delivering high interest, low reading level literacy resources from our Lending Library to schools for Reading Coaches and teachers.
- Providing free books for students to encourage independent reading.
Wheels for kids is very pleased to be working with these organizations and expects this to be the beginning of a lasting partnership.
Explorer Article 4-12-2017
Wheeling in smiles, one bike at a time
Logan Burtch-Buus, The Explorer | Updated Yesterday (4/12/17)
Several weeks ago Tucson resident Rosanna Velasco returned to her temporary home at the Gospel Rescue Mission to find her three-year-old son, Zack, astride a bright green bicycle, wearing a blue helmet emblazoned with flames and a smile spreading from ear to ear. Quite surprised to find her son on a new bike, Velasco said she was even more surprised to hear the bike now belonged to her son, thanks to the efforts of a group of volunteers from Oro Valley.
Founded 10 years ago by Sun City Oro Valley resident Dick Swain, WFK collects donations of new and used bicycles and refurbishes (or tunes up) the equipment for use by underprivileged children and their families, refugees, and others within the greater Tucson community. An all-volunteer staff, WFK partners with community and service organizations to locate those in-need of a memorable gift.
“The tagline exemplifies how I feel about it, and how we all still feel about it,” Swain said. “Everyone remembers their first bike.” Swain said the group got its start as a spinoff of two other organizations within the Sun City community, Seniors For Kids, which comprises of men and women making toys and crafts and collecting supplies for families in-need, and the local cycling club. As a member of both organizations, Swain said he one day realized the potential of his two hobbies, and began talking with his fellow cyclists. After 10 individuals volunteered, the organization got off the ground by using the philanthropic connections of its fore groups.
It didn’t take long to get the ball—or in this case the tire—rolling. Wheels For Kids has grown since 2007, now staffed by a team of roughly 40 volunteers, and recently celebrated a significant milestone when it donated its 2,000th bike to Zack.
“He loves bikes,” Velasco said of her son. “He was just really happy; he was showing it off, had his picture taken because he is very proud of it, and he loves his helmet as well.”
Velasco said her son has developed quite a fascination with bicycles and motorcycles despite his young age; his father, grandparents and uncle are all avid motorcycle-riders, and Zack had previously been riding around on a plastic tricycle – or what he referred to as his motorcycle.
“It means a lot to me and my son,” she said. “Being in recovery and in a place like this, it shows that there are still really good people out there and God has blessed us. They are a blessing, giving back to us.”
For WFK president Tom Terfehr, who said he joined the group as a mechanic, the small moments shared with families like the Velascos are what make the time behind the wrench worth it.
“It seemed to me, and I think this is true for a number of mechanics, that it is a great way to use your skills for a good cause,” he said. “I always imagine that when I am working on a bike, that this is going to someone’s grandkid. It could be going to mine, and that’s really what motivates me. It’s partly just giving something back to someone who might otherwise not ever have a chance to ride a bike.”
Whether sitting on 12-inch wheels or 700C adult tires, WFK mechanic Ernie Fisher said the process of rehabbing donations (or tuning up new bikes) all depends on the quality of product donated to the group. Once a bike is received, Fisher said a mechanic assesses its individual needs, disassembles it and begins an extensive cleaning process. Anything that cannot be tuned back into full use is replaced, and the end result is a shining bike that looks like it just rolled off the line.
Though youth like Zack don’t yet comprehend the amount of team effort and labor it took to retool his bike, Velasco said she will use the experience as an opportunity to impart future life lessons upon her son: teamwork, the importance of charity and the value of possessions, to name a few.
Already past its 2,000th donation, Swain and Terfehr said WFK only has room to grow, and will continue its mission of providing less fortunate members of their community with their first bikes. More information on the group and how to get involved can be found at www.azwfk.org.
WFK Editor’s note: Dick Swain’s name was misspelled in the original article. It is correct in this reprint.
A Sun City Oro Valley volunteer group has donated its 2,000th refurbished bicycle to local youths and adults in need.
Wheels For Kids, which was founded in 2007 by Dick Swain, collects used bikes and overhauls them, makes sure they operate correctly and are safe, and then donates them to deserving children, teens and adults in Tucson.
The group began with 10 volunteers and now has 40 volunteers helping the effort.
Recently, the nonprofit donated its 2,000th bicycle to a boy at the Gospel Rescue Mission.
The group has donated bicycles to organizations such as Youth on their Own, Casa de los Niños, Tucson Boys’ and Girls’ Club and GAP Ministries.
For more information about the group, go to www.azwfk.org
Wheels For Kids (WFK) was founded by Dick Swain in 2007 with a vision: to put a smile on the face of kids who didn’t think they would ever get to experience the joy of riding their own bike. WFK is an all volunteer, non-profit organization that collects used bikes, completely overhauls them, ensures they work well, look good and are safe to operate – and then, through partner charitable organizations, gives them to deserving kids, teens and adults in greater Tucson. From a modest beginning of 10 kindred spirits it has grown to over 40 volunteers today.
Today Wheels For Kids delivered its 2,000th bike. The recipient was a happy youngster named Zack at Gospel Rescue Mission Women & Children’s Center in Tucson. He lives there with his Mom. The two of them were homeless but now live in temporary housing while getting things back together. Zack, while a child of few words, clearly was happy with his new bike and helmet! Included are a couple pictures of Zack and his bike. You should have seen him walking it back to their apartment; no one was going to get in between him and his new Ninja Turtle bike!
On this special occasion Wheels For Kids would like to say “Thank You” to our supporters around greater Tucson. For 10 years you have donated bicycles, provided financial contributions and spread the word about our work to your friends, colleagues and neighbors. Your kindness and generous support has brought joy and changed the lives of more than 2,000 people, including Zack today. He had a smile on his face as bright as the Arizona sun!