INDIANAPOLIS — To kids, a bicycle brings newfound freedom, but for some, buying a bike isn’t in the budget.
However, that’s where the Earn-A-Bike program through Freewheelin’ Community Bikes comes in.
It’s literally like it sounds. Children ages 10-18 work on bikes that need repairs to earn one that they keep.
“They are proud because they have accomplished something first and then it’s absolute joy,” Lanisha Clark, the organization's executive director, said.
Clark said this year, Freewheelin’ Community Bikes got a $23,000 crime prevention grant, from the Indianapolis City-County Council.
Throughout this four-week Earn-A-Bike program, she sees growth in more ways than one.
“They don’t own a bike. They don’t even know how they feel about bikes, and then to see them leave and have passed a test and took a 16-hour course and can ride from the bike shop to the Monon and have a dessert and then come back, I mean, to see the progression is just rewarding,” Clark said.
Ultimately, it’s rewarding for the kids who learn mechanical, social, and leadership skills.
It’s an outlet that some kids stick with through an apprentice program, like 14-year-old Gab Seck. He said he likes sharing his new knowledge with others.
“Basically, to grow a mind skill, such as communicating and building bikes,” Seck said.
With the momentum these kids find, they speed forward, from not owning a bike, to biking around the city together.
Leona Kioilinge Mankastler said she’s met her best friend through Freewheelin’.
“I love it, it’s amazing, it’s one of my favorite summer camps period,” she said
Now, she feels no hesitation doing mechanical work as a girl.
“Gender has no limit,” said Kioilinge Mankastler.
It’s simple bike work like the ABC’s — checking the air, brakes and bike chain — that carry children like Franki Brownward far.
“I don’t think a lot of people know, because I had been riding bikes since I was really little, and I didn’t even know how to fix a flat tire until I was eleven,” Brownward said.
However, Franki said she’s used these skills since fall 2020, which have brought a sense of freedom during the pandemic and beyond.
“I just want people to know it’s really fun and you should come here because you’d have a great time," Brownward said.
Since Freewheelin’ took off in 2009, it’s served about 1,800 young people. The violence prevention grant goes to Freewheelin’s apprenticeship, or 'YEET program,' what stands for Youth Education and Employment Training Program.
To go more in-depth for you, the YEET program is a year-round apprenticeship. Participants are paid, train in skills like bike mechanics, take an entrepreneurship class, mentor youth and more.
You must apply to be accepted. Click here for more information.
Now the fall break camp just ended but the next set of classes at Freewheelin’ will start in November. The exact date is still to be determined.
However, they have a Bike Donation Day on from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Oct. 30th, at the Carmel City Hall parking lot.