Many kids get a new set of wheels thanks to Bike Rehab

Volunteers work to repair bikes for local kids during the 3rd Annual SWAG Bike Rehab held at the SWAG Family Resource Center in the Linton Oaks neighborhood of Gainesville Saturday March 30, 2013. The event was a day for kids in the neighborhood to come and get a free fixed up bike that had been donated to the SWAG center.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.

Childhood without a bike is childhood without the fun, freedom and good health that two wheels can bring.

Dozens of economically disadvantaged southwest Gainesville children got those wheels Saturday at the Bike Rehab event sponsored by University of Florida health students and organizations.

"All of us are going to race later on," said Antaria Bean, 11, on her purple mountain bike. "I like my bike. It's cool."

Racing was just one the activities that the kids — who all live in a cluster of communities off Southwest 20th Avenue or Tower Road — said they planned to do with their bikes.

UF student Shed-Laure Richardson, one of the organizers, said Bike Rehab is a service project for a community health course. Many of the 50 to 60 student volunteers are part of the School Health Interdisciplinary Program and the Health and Education through Research, Outreach, Empowerment and Service organization.

Other volunteers included residents of the various neighborhoods served by the Southwest Advocacy Group — or SWAG — and a few professional bike mechanics, though volunteers did most of the rehabbing.

Richardson said the morning started out with 30 donated bikes. Many passersby saw the event and returned with bikes they no longer needed and donated them to the project.

"I'm pretty sure most of the kids who signed up got bikes," Richardson said. "They got safety lights, they got helmets — they got goody bags filled with bike things."

The city of Gainesville's bicycle/pedestrian program provided the goodies and also held demonstrations on bike safety. Plenty of food was available for the kids and their families.

UF student Thomas Coppola, repairing a tire, said the bikes were generally in good condition. Tires, gearing, brake pads and seats needed the most attention.

"Some of it is a little difficult because we don't have the tools," Coppola said. "But the bike is a pretty simple instrument. We had a kid whose frame was off, so we hammered it back."

Kids could be seen zipping throughout the Linton Oaks neighborhood, where SWAG operates the community center at which the event was held.

Brittany Weekes, 15, said she hasn't had a bike in a while and was pleased to get one Saturday.

"When I was a kid, maybe 10, I had a bike," Weekes said. "If I miss the bus, now I'll have a ride to school. I'll ride to friends' houses and around the neighborhood."

William Brascom, 8, got a bike that looked like a motorcycle.

"It's good," William said. "I like bikes. They're fast and they're fun."

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