Year-end update: Our Big News & Our Impact
2023 is coming to a close and we are reflecting on our growth and evolution over the past year. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the amazing volunteer support we received this year. Our bike giveaway program is very volunteer intensive because giving away 2,000 bikes is no easy feat. We’re also experiencing a time when bike parts and accessories are all increasing in price and on this scale, it ends up being a large increase. Our donors have generously continued to support us and made all of this possible through their financial support.
Some of the year’s highlights include:
- Reaching our milestone of giving away 10,000 bikes since our first bike giveaway in 2017. That’s a whole lot of positive impact! Alan, a sophomore at West High, was the recipient of this bike and he rides to school daily and his bike allows him to participate in the wrestling team and get to practice and events. We gave away over 1,800 bikes in Wisconsin in 2023!
- Shipping 555 bikes to Ghana where people are walking 8-10 miles each way to work. These vehicles will be life changing for them!
- Launching our pilot Bike Mechanics educational program with Wright Middle School this fall. Kids came to our shop to find a box of bike parts to build a 20″ coaster brake bike. They were so enthusiastic to learn and get this work done! We were so impressed with them. It’s key to do this work with middle school aged kids because, in our car dominated society, high schoolers typically are more focused on getting their first car and learning to drive. Our goal for this program is to introduce a new career track that kids may never have considered, empower them with the knowledge to fix their own bikes so they can keep riding, and work to address the consistent shortage of bike mechanics in our community.
- We added a full time professional mechanic bringing our staff up to three full time people year-round. In 2020, we had a part-time executive director and one seasonal mechanic helping with our bike giveaway program.
- We have now served 172 nonprofits and schools as distribution partners helping us get bikes out into the community. They select our bike recipients because they know the people who are most in need. It’s a great system and we cannot give 1,500-2,000 bikes away each year without this valuable partnership.
- We held our first bike donation drive in Minocqua as we prepare to start serving the 12 Tribes in Wisconsin.
- We distributed bikes in Milwaukee and Racine in addition to Dane County. People in Milwaukee are now seeing us a source for their transportation needs. Just this week we had a group of social workers come from Milwaukee to get bikes for their clients who were facing a transportation crises.
- Our bike sales and service became available to the public as a way for us to sustain our programming. We started to offer low-cost service and used bikes for sale. We may not be the best service option for those with expensive bikes but for those who are financially struggling or those who have a steady steed they love and want to support our program, it’s a great option.
Whew! It was clearly a big year. But we’re not done yet. We have a HUGE announcement to make so get ready. Starting on January 1, 2024, we will now be known as Bikes for Kids Wisconsin! Yes, our bikes are still free but we’ll be working towards our enhanced mission which includes the bike giveaway program, educational programming, and additional support for our bike recipients.
While Dane County will continue to be the focus of our work, we are making ourselves more widely available for others around the state to access free bikes. Those of you who know and love us know we are a small staff working hard to meet the needs of the community at present. We will be working out new systems in 2024 to strategically and carefully grow. We envision our focus being 80% on Dane County because this is where we are located and where the majority of our donated bikes are coming from. The generosity of Dane County continues to impress us as we’ve seen our bike donations increase and the quality of these donations improve greatly.
We extend our sincere gratitude to each and every one of you who have volunteered, worked with us as distribution partners, donated bikes or supported us financially, or assisted us in other ways. We may be small but we are doing mighty work and we’re just getting started. We hope you’ll join us as a volunteer, bike donor, financial supporter, bike repair customer, or advocate for our work in 2024!
For media requests, email our Executive Director Kristie GoForth.
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