Free Bikes 4 Kidz used bike donation program back with COVID-19 safe plan to connect kids with fun, freedom and physical activity

September 29, 2020

DETROIT – On Saturday, Oct. 3, the Detroit chapter of Free Bikes 4 Kidz will host its third annual bike collection that turns used, unwanted bicycles into holiday gifts for kids – an effort Henry Ford Health System is proud to continue supporting even as COVID-19 has changed and challenged this year’s effort.

Bikes can be dropped off from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday Oct. 3 at one of four Henry Ford Medical Centers and five Home Depot stores. This is the first year Home Depot has joined with Henry Ford to support Free Bikes 4 Kidz-Detroit, along with a growing number of organizations that see the individual and community value in keeping kids healthy.

This year’s collection sites:
Henry Ford Medical Center – Cottage, 131 Kercheval Avenue, Grosse Pointe Farms
Henry Ford Medical Center – Fairlane, 19401 Hubbard Drive, Dearborn
Henry Ford Medical Center – Lakeside, 14500 Hall Road, Sterling Heights
Henry Ford Medical Center – Royal Oak, 26300 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak

Home Depot stores in Northville, Farmington, Rochester Hills, Troy, Woodhaven – http://fb4kdetroit.org/locations/ - will accept bikes as well.

Bikes can also be donated directly to Free Bikes 4 Kidz warehouse at 411 Piquette, Detroit, after Oct 3 until early December. Community groups can hold separate bike drives as well.

With COVID-19 making staying healthy and getting outdoors ever more important and leading to a global bicycle shortage, this year’s collection might be the most important and challenging yet. Free Bikes 4 Kidz relies on donations from businesses and residents across metro Detroit.

“We know that our Henry Ford team members, our many patients, families and communities will come through again this year as they have in the past,” said Paul Szilagyi, Henry Ford’s vice-president of primary care and medical centers. “We know that keeping kids active increases their chances of staying healthy, and doing well in school and in life. We also know that this year is especially challenging financially for many families. Providing bikes at the holidays will make a big difference for parents, who work hard to provide a special gift for their children.

The pandemic, not surprisingly, has changed this year’s collection.

Besides a bicycle shortage that could affect donations, there are COVID-19 safety guidelines to weave into a well-oiled process that runs the bikes from collection, through repairs, to safety inspection before their final arrival with a new owner. There are also fewer locations to drop off bikes this year and possibly fewer volunteers due to concerns over COVID.

The biggest change is no in-person giveaway in order to avoid the risks of spreading COVID-19. Instead, FB4K will ship bikes out in bulk to organizations that request them for children they serve.

Free Bikes 4 Kidz’ local organizers never considered canceling, co-founder Bob Barnes said. Instead, they implemented stringent safety protocols. The collection goal stays the same: in excess of 1,000 bikes. In 2018 and 2019 metro Detroiters’ generously donated 3,300 bikes.

“We feel optimistic and determined. We hope people who purchased new bikes will have old bikes they’re ready to part with,” Barnes said. “We’re doing our best to serve a community that has been hard hit by the pandemic. All kids deserve a chance to pedal into a healthier childhood with a bike and they need it more than ever in 2020.”

Free Bikes 4 Kidz relies on volunteers to help refurbish bikes, all skill levels needed from sorters and cleaners to bike mechanics and errand runners. On Saturday, Barnes and volunteers will load donated bikes into a truck and deliver them to the FB4K warehouse in Midtown Detroit. There, the bikes move through from repair, to refurbishment and a final safety and quality check before joining rows of good-as-new bikes ready for a new owner to ride away on in December.

Each bike comes with a helmet, a must, said Stacy Leatherwood, M.D., Henry Ford pediatrician and physician champion for childhood wellness for Henry Ford LiveWell. Safety and preventing accidents should also be front of mind, she said.

“It can’t be impressed enough the importance of safe physical activity for children, especially in an era when childhood obesity and chronic disease are affecting children at higher rates. The isolation of COVID-19 and its effects on physical and behavioral health make exercise and getting outdoors extra vital to health and wellness,” Dr. Leatherwood said. “The bigger picture is that happy, healthy children lead to happier families and a happier community for all of us.”

 MEDIA CONTACT: Kim North Shine / 313-549-4995 / knorth1@hfhs.org