When Andy Quandt thinks about the landmark gifts one (might) receive during childhood he always thinks of two things on the opposite ends of that spectrum: A Teddy bear during infanthood and, if one is really really lucky, a car to go along with turning 16.
But the trinket in between those two is what is most vital in Quandt’s world: a bicycle.
Many of us remember our first bike. Riding bikes as kids is one of the most memorable parts of childhood for many. Whether it was riding down the sidewalks or out in the dirt or the country roads around Dane County. Getting that first bike meant you were one step closer to freedom and autonomy.
For more than ten years, Free Bikes 4 Kidz has tried to bring that freedom and autonomy to kids without cost. Quandt feels that transportation is a right. Not just for adults, but for kids too. And so it was that the idea that began in a Minnesota garage in 2008 found its way to Madison’s Central Library on an unseasonably warm December day in 2018.
Quandt smiled in a group photo with other grant recipients at a major event hosted by the Madison Community Foundation. MCF was doling out an unprecedented amount of money to the area’s most deserving nonprofits and causes. Among them was Free Bikes 4 Kids, which received $50,000 to build the capacity with which it can annually collect and refurbish 2,000 bikes for kids.
On Saturday, January 12, Free Bikes 4 Kids will be holding a major bike donation event that it hopes will lead to thousands of bicycles being gifted to area children through community partners of Free Bikes 4 Kids.
The donation event is from 9am-1pm on Saturday. Anyone with a bike they aren’t using or just a bike they’d like to donate is asked to bring that bike to UnityPoint Health Meriter locations. UnityPoint has locations in Monona, DeForest, Middleton, Fitchburg, Stoughton and Madison that are being used as drop off points for bikes.
Both adult and child bikes are accepted and tricycles are as well. Free Bikes 4 Kids is most in need of smaller bikes that could be used by children. The bikes are then cleaned and refurbished by volunteers.
Quandt says that they always are searching for volunteers to help clean or refurbish the bikes and anyone who wants to do that can email Volunteer@fb4kmadison.org.
“We need these bikes,” Quandt told Madison365. “We’re asking the community to take their extra bikes and donate them by dropping them off at UnityPoint Meriter locations around town. We try to collect all the bikes in one day. We’re trying to collect about 3,000 bikes in 24 hours. And then we have warehouse space that’s right next to the Home Depot on Verona Road and we have a thousand volunteers that come in and help us clean the bikes, refurbish the bikes, and then at the end, we will give them away through all 45 of our community partners.”
Quandt says that last year they gave away 1,100 bikes and this year are hoping to double that effort. With the grant from Madison Community Foundation helping to ensure they will have the capability to continue reaching that goal, Quandt has been able to focus on what is most important: helping a kid achieve a fun, safe way to get around.
“It puts a smile on their face,” Quandt said. “Which is really what we’re after. You know, I think I heard it said once that for a kid, you get your teddy bear and then sixteen years later you get your car. And in between that you get your bike. Not everybody gets that feeling of their own bike. So we want to make sure that everybody has access to their own bike, so everyone can have that feeling. I think transportation is a right. And for a young person to be granted that right from society is a very important thing. It allows them to explore, and Madison is just such a perfect place with the bike path system, kids can go anywhere.”
But in order for that to happen, people need to both donate bikes and volunteer whatever time they can to help refurbish and clean the bikes and make sure they are safe for youth.
Anyone wanting to donate a bike can do so at one of these UnityPoint Meriter locations:
- Stoughton – 100 Silverado Dr., Stoughton, WI
- Monona – 6408 Copps Ave. Monona, WI
- Deforest-Windsor – 4200 Savannah Dr. Deforest, WI
- Deming Way – 2275 Deming Way, Middleton, WI
- McKee – 3102 McKee Rd, Madison, WI
- Fitchburg – 2690 Research Park Dr., Fitchburg, WI