Optimist Club keeps old bike wheels turning

The Optimist Club of Red Deer program that fixes old bikes and then gives them away needs help to keep the wheels turning.

Ken Williamson of the Optimist Club of Red Deer works on a donated bike at Sunnybrook Farm and Museum as part of the Bikes for Kids Program.

Ken Williamson of the Optimist Club of Red Deer works on a donated bike at Sunnybrook Farm and Museum as part of the Bikes for Kids Program.

The Optimist Club of Red Deer program that fixes old bikes and then gives them away needs help to keep the wheels turning.

“Our biggest problem so far this year has been the supply of bikes,” said Ken Williamson, Optimists Bikes for Kids program co-ordinator.

Williamson and his team of five volunteers have fixed up about 300 donated bikes over the past four years, and given them to needy Central Albertans whose families can’t afford a new or used bike, he said.

“New Canadians are often struggling to get along, and giving them bikes really helps them out, so we find we get quite a few of those folks as well,” Williamson added.

The Optimists usually meet on Monday nights at Sunnybrook Farm Museum in Red Deer to work on the donated bikes, which they store in two large sea containers by the museum’s north gate.

Besides acting as a dropoff and storage point for the bikes, Sunnybrook also lets the Optimists use one of their shop areas ­to work on the bikes at night.

Williamson said the group enjoyed fixing up their own bikes so much that doing the charitable bike exchange seemed like an easy decision.

The Optimist bike program has fixed up and given away 15 bikes so far this spring, Williamson said but they will need more donations of adult-sized bikes, as well as youth-sized bikes (with 20- to 24-inch wheels) to keep up with the growing demand.

“Kids grow out of bikes so fast, we find the bigger bikes are easier to give away and there’s more of a need for them,” Williamson said.

Williamson said even bikes in poor condition are salvaged for parts before being scrapped but the “better quality the bike is, the easier it is for us to fix it up and give out.” He asks that dirty or muddy bikes be cleaned off before being donated.

Anyone interested in giving a used bike to the program can contact Williamson directly at 403-318-5803 to arrange a pickup or dropoff.

Bikes can also be dropped off at Sunnybrook Farm Museum during their regular operating hours.

syoung@bprda.wpengine.com