Volunteers pedal joy of bicycling to foster kids

By Paul Archipley | Mar 06, 2013
Photo by: Paul Archipley Carolyn van der Meulen stands in her Harbour Pointe garage among the many bicycles being refurbished by the nonprofit group Foster Bikes. The student-led, all-volunteer organization cleans and repairs donated bikes, then gives them to foster groups for distribution.

Many an adult can recall the joy of riding bikes around the neighborhood on lazy summer days. It’s almost a rite of passage, one that every child should experience.

That was the thinking behind Foster Bikes, the brainchild of Keith and Carolyn van der Meulen.

The Mukilteo siblings co-founded the student-led nonprofit in June 2012 so that foster and low-income children could also enjoy the fun and freedom that bikes offer.

“The inspiration for Foster Bikes came when they realized how many of their happiest memories included the times spent on bicycles with their friends,” they explained in a summary of their organization.

“Recognizing that not all children had access to bicycles, and those children would never have memories of biking with friends,” they wondered, “what if every child had a bike?

“In that ‘what if’ moment, Foster Bikes began.”

They’re reaching out to the community to donate bikes that volunteers can clean and repair, and then donate to foster programs. They also welcome cash contributions to purchase parts and other equipment. Their application for 501(c)3 nonprofit status is pending.

Keith, a Kamiak High School graduate, and Carolyn, a junior there, are ramping up Foster Bikes even as they pursue other obligations and interests.

Keith is enrolled at the University of Calgary, while Carolyn is active in  swimming in addition to her studies at Kamiak.

But Foster Bikes will remain prominent in their lives.

“After homework, I’ll work on the bikes, do some fundraisers, and get out and meet people,” Carolyn said.

And Keith will continue to be involved as best he can while in college, as well as when he comes home during breaks.

“I’m going to hold my brother to getting some grease on his hands,” Carolyn said.

They’re also enlisting the help of other students. Their first recruit, Max Takacs, is a junior at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

They have collected about a dozen bikes so far. Bikes are pushing out the cars in their garage in Harbour Pointe.

Keith and Carolyn’s mother, Andrea Main, said the siblings’ enthusiasm to help others is paying unexpected dividends.

Not only are they taking positive steps to help those in need, they’re learning important lessons that will serve them well in their own lives, she said.

“They see themselves as stronger together,” Main said. “And they see that the community is so much stronger when they come together.”

The van der Meulens plan to keep Foster Bikes as a primarily student-run organization; they welcome students who are interested in volunteering.

They’re also on a never-ending hunt for bikes – like that one that’s been hanging in your garage for the past decade. Why not donate it so that some child can experience the joy of riding around the neighborhood with friends?

For more information, visit fosterbikes.com on the Web, https://www.facebook.com/FosterBikes on Facebook, or email at: infor@fosterbikes.com.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.