Kids’ bikes come together
It was a lesson in brotherly love.
Scattered around the dimly lit basement of the former O’Neil’s department store were more than 20 volunteers trying to beat a deadline, building bicycles in time to give them away.
It was a daylong effort to put together 210 bikes for children aged 8 to 11 by Saturday for the Children’s Bike Ride at the LeBron James King for Kids Bikeathon.
Youngsters who will take part were selected by administrators from Akron‘s Recreation Bureau and the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority. The children are active at city recreation centers or are AMHA residents.
The 210 bikes were donated to the James Family Foundation by Schwinn but arrived in Akron late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning unassembled. So a call went out for volunteers to put them together in time for Saturday’s event.
And the volunteers showed up. Among them were several off-duty Akron firefighters and even Deputy Chief Larry Bunner.
Bunner busily opened boxes and put the parts out in work areas around the enormous basement.
Firefighters Bill Hailey, John Beavers, Jim Knafel, Rob Hoch and Ken Johnson used part of a day off to build bikes.
“It’s easier than cutting the grass,” said Knafel, 36, of Akron, who said he would have been mowing his lawn if he were at home.
Looking at the stack of unopened bikes, with only about 25 finished, Johnson knew there was a lot of work still to be done. “It’s a lot of bikes,” he said.
Three men — David Axelrod, Brad Golden, and Alexander Foster, all resident interns at Haven of Rest — worked feverishly.
Golden, 48, said he was glad that inner-city youth would be given the bikes. “It’s a wonderful thing,” agreed 52-year-old Axelrod.
University of Akron retiree Dick Henry, 72, brought his tools to the O’Neil’s building Thursday and quietly worked by himself. “This is my third,” he said. “I’m getting better at it.”
Volunteer Jesse Williamson, who once ran the South Street Ministries bicycle program, was pumping out bikes at a 10-minute-per-bike clip.
The 42-year-old, who would like to run his own bike store someday, said he has been building bikes for years and has the knack.
He said he hopes the bike recipients catch the love of biking that he has. “It’s a joy out of this world. It’s unbelievable.”
The children who receive the bikes, he said, also understand that “it is better to give than find the easy way.”
Duane Crabbs, 45, who runs South Street Ministries, was working on a bike next to Williamson; he looked around the basement at the work being done and smiled. “People pitching together make this stuff happen,” he said.
His organization began its bike ministry several years ago. In the program, young people who spend 10 hours helping to build a bike from old parts get a finished bike in return for their “sweat equity.”
And what was accomplished Thursday by putting so many bikes together couldn’t have happened without lots of work from lots of places, Crabbs said.
“The power of LeBron’s name draws people,” he said.
But the Cavaliers basketball superstar, Crabbs said, couldn’t put all the bikes together by himself.
And so the call went out, based on the name of LeBron James, and volunteers showed up. “This is what builds communities,” Crabbs said.
Kent Starks, a spokesman for the James Family Foundation, said all 210 bikes were assembled by 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
About 25 volunteers were involved.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on Sat, Oct. 22, 2005