Cottage among drop-off locations for bike collection

Photos courtesy of Kim North Shine
Marianne Langlois, director of Henry Ford Medical Center—Cottage, helps load bikes during donation day 2019. The Grosse Pointes and neighbors from east Detroit donated more bikes than any other medical center last year and in 2018.

In its third year, Free Bikes 4 Kidz Detroit has narrowed its number of collection sites from more than 20 to just four, due to COVID-19 concerns.

Because the Grosse Pointe collection location amassed in its first two years more bicycle donations than any other metro Detroit location, Henry Ford Medical Center—Cottage was selected as one of this year’s participating locations.

“COVID-19 has changed this year’s donation day, but I’m grateful Cottage is a part of keeping Free Bikes 4 Kidz going,” said Marianne Langlois, director of Cottage. “I am sure the community will come through again in 2020, just as it has the last two years.”

This Saturday, Oct. 3, the Detroit chapter of Free Bikes 4 Kidz hosts its third annual bike collection, which turns used, unwanted bicycles into holiday gifts for children.

Bikes will be collected from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Henry Ford Medical Center—Cottage, 131 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Farms, as well as at its medical centers in Dearborn, Sterling Heights and Royal Oak. Additionally, Home Depot stores in Northville, Farmington, Rochester Hills, Woodhaven and Troy also serve as collection locations.

This is the first year Home Depot has joined the Free Bikes 4 Kidz Detroit effort.

Bikes also may be donated at the Free Bikes 4 Kidz warehouse, 411 Piquette, Detroit, after collection day.

This year, as in past years, donors will pull up to the curb and volunteers will unload their bikes and provide a tax donation form.

A volunteer stands with a line of more than 100 bikes during the 2019 collection.

“It’s such a special day for all involved,” Langlois said. “There’s a great feeling in the air. The donors are happy to see their bikes going to kids who will be happy to have them. Parents like the opportunity to model generosity. Homeowners welcome a place to get rid of dusty old bikes.

“There are just so many smiles and so much goodness with everyone coming and going for one common cause — something we can really use right about now.”

Donations to Free Bikes 4 Kidz give young people without bikes the opportunity to experience the fun, freedom and physical activity a bike can bring. Through the generosity of metro Detroit businesses and residents, organizers hope to exceed more than 1,000 donations this year.

“We are hopeful Henry Ford team members, our many patients, families and communities that have come through in the past will do the same in 2020,” said Paul Szilagyi, Henry Ford’s vice president of primary care and medical centers. “We know that keeping kids active increases their chances of doing well in school and in life and decreases risks of chronic disease that impact their families and the health system. We also know that this year is especially challenging for many families financially, so providing bikes at the holidays comes as a relief to many parents working hard to provide for their children, especially the special things like gifts.”

The pandemic has changed this year’s collection, organizers said. 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 also are fewer locations to drop off bikes this year and possibly fewer volunteers due to concerns over COVID.

To avoid the risks of spreading COVID-19, there won’t be an in-person giveaway this year. Instead, Free Bikes 4 Kidz will ship bikes in bulk to organizations that request them.

Despite the challenges faced because of the pandemic, local organizers never considered canceling the event. Instead, they decided to adapt and implement stringent safety protocols to protect those involved, from donors to recipients.

“We feel optimistic and determined,” co-founder Bob Barnes said. “We have faith the community will come through again. 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, starting with those who travel from collection site to collection site, loading donated bikes into a truck and dropping them off at the Free Bikes 4 Kidz warehouse in Midtown. The Platform Group donates the space and many other organizations also support the effort.

Marc Stuckey, his daughter, Beatrice, son, Gus, and family friend, Claire Hathaway, all of Grosse Pointe Park, donated a bike last year.

At the warehouse, volunteers move the bikes through an elaborate system that includes repair, refurbishment and a final safety and quality check before they join other bikes soon destined for new owners.

Each bike also comes with a helmet, a must, said Stacy Leatherwood, M.D., Henry Ford pediatrician and physician champion for childhood wellness for Henry Ford LiveWell.

“It can’t be impressed enough the importance of physical activity for children, especially in an era when childhood obesity and chronic disease are affecting children at higher rates,” she said. “Safety and preventing accidents from becoming serious injuries should also be front of mind. The bigger picture is that happy, healthy children lead to happier families, a happier community for all of us.”

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— Jody McVeigh

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