Monday, July 30, 2007

Article in WSJ

Kids, Bikes Benefit From Wrench-a-thon
Wisconsin State Journal :: DAYBREAK :: D1
Friday, July 27, 2007
Jill Klosterman 608-252-6180
CORRECTION: Correct phone number for Wheels for Winners\ A story on Page 1 of Friday's Daybreak section contained an incorrect phone number for Wheels for Winners, which is hosting its Wrench-a-Thon bike-building event this weekend. The correct phone number is 249-2418. (Published on 7/28/07)

Gear up for cycling and charity.

Saturday at noon, the Madison-based non-profit group Wheels for Winners will kick off its second-annual Wrench-a-thon.

For 24 hours, WFW will dismantle and rebuild bicycles for children in Dane County who have completed 15 hours of community service.

"It's a fantastic way to reward children for their hard work," said Ruth Ann Schoer, WFW founder.

The event is open to anyone willing to turn a wrench-no experience necessary-and authorized bike technicians will certify the safety of every refurbished bicycle on the lot.

"Everyone is welcome to come and amateurs will be shown how to tear down bikes and save the parts," said Charlotte Marshall, WFW office manager.

"We will salvage parts from unusable bikes, redo the bearings and add new parts as needed."

Now in its 15th year, Schoer said WFW continues to provide charity to Dane County's neediest children-most bike recipients represent Dane county's poor, disenfranchised and racial/ethnic minority populations.

"It began as a way to get bikes to kids who maybe would not otherwise be able to have a bike," said Kim Slava, WFW board president.

A social work project in the spring of 1992 inspired Schoer to develop a service that would reconcile the bicycle disparity between Madison's communities.

"I was working in a low income neighborhood and there was a problem with children stealing bikes," she recalled.

"I understood that every kid wanted a bike in the summer and that when it was turnover time for the university, students would just leave their bikes."

Schoer decided to "hook this together" by inviting the community to donate unused or abandoned bikes to the budding WFW organization.

"By the time I was done with that first day I had about 110 bikes and people wanted to know where to deliver them."

This weekend, donors and volunteers can deliver their services to WFW's location at 2310 Pennsylvania Avenue.

"I would like to stress that what (WFW) needs is bicycles for children-not adults-and volunteers," Schoer said.

Slava emphasized that the program isn't about hand-outs-children must earn their wheels under the supervision and consent of a parent.

"They have to do their 15 hours, and someone has to vouch for it," he said.

Safety is also paramount-WFW requires parents to arrange a City of Madison Bicycle Safety Training session for their child.

Once children earn their hours, they "get a lock and helmet, then the city provides a license for them," according to Marshall.

Since its creation, Slava said the organization has donated more than 1,500 bicycles, averaging above 100 per year.

"It promotes biking, keeps cars off the street, keeps kids fit, helps keep abandoned bikes out of landfills, and offers an incentive to help out at community centers," Slava said.

But while the group formed in response to a bicycle shortage, Marshall said the group now has a surplus of repaired bikes ready to be earned.

"This year we have quite a few bikes so we're trying to get the word out," she said.

Still, Marshall said the group has high expectations for 2007.

"We're hoping to give out 200, but we've given out 46 right now," she said.

Slava said volunteers repaired about two dozen bicycles at the 2006 the Wrench-a-thon and he expects a similar outcome this year.

"It's going to be a little different than last year because we're going to have live music," Slava said.

Wrench-a-thon 2007 will also feature grilling, games, prizes and bicycle races for kids.

"They said (WFW)would never last more than three years," Schoer said, "but I think it has absolutely been successful in reaching the kids in the neighborhoods who need it most."

\ If you go:

Location: 2310 Pennsylvania Avenue

Date & Time: Saturday, July 28 at noon through Sunday, July 29 at noon

Event type: Volunteer work (no skills necessary)

Event Details: fix bikes, strip bikes, race kids' bikes, play games with bike parts, learn about WFW Phone: 608-249-3418



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