Your old bicycle could change a child’s life!

PHOENIX (Recycle Your Bicycle) – When you were a kid, one of the world’s best feelings was likely riding your bicycle. With your friends. To school. To a job. Having a bike is freedom. It’s belonging. It’s having something to call your own. You remember that feeling, right? It’s something every child should experience. And yet, so many do not because they do not have a bike. What if you had the opportunity to change a child’s life by giving them that experience?

Donate a new or gently used bike

That’s what the Recycle Your Bicycle program is all about. It’s an initiative by the Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents to collect new and used bicycles that are refurbished to like-new condition and then given to Arizona children experiencing foster care.

It might seem like a small thing, but to a child in Arizona’s foster care system and the family caring for them, it’s huge. Kids experiencing foster care often find themselves at a disadvantage because of circumstances beyond their control. There’s a stigma associated with being a “foster kid,” labels that can make them feel self-conscious and “different.” Most people do not understand what these kids - especially tweens and teens - go through.

Why bicycles are so important

Dealing with experiences no child should face, kids experiencing foster care are among Arizona’s most vulnerable children. Many, if not most, have had to grow up too quickly in far-from-ideal circumstances - their childhoods cut short. Having a bike of their own can be an anchor, a chance to be “normal.”

“It’s an amazing thing to get a bicycle, and for kids who have experienced foster care, it’s something that they have as their own property, that they have ownership of, and then can take care of it, and get out there with other kids and be a kid,” explained Nancy Williams, the executive director of Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents.

“Bikes mean a lot to all kids, but for teens, that may mean they’re getting a job, and they are able to use their bike for transportation to a job or school,” she continued. But it’s not just freedom that comes with having a bike. “Bikes provide that social interaction with other kids in the neighborhood. It also helps provide normalcy for children who maybe have been moved from home to home.”

The Recycle Your Bicycle program has been providing bikes to children experiencing foster care for more than 11 years. That first year, they had fewer than 100 bikes. Since then, more than 11,000 children have received new or used bikes.

This year’s donation day is on Saturday, Aug. 27

Where to donate

What kind of bikes does Recycle Your Bicycle need?

The short answer is all kinds. AZAFAP serves kids of all ages so they need bikes of all sizes.

  • 12-inch for kids 2-3 years old
  • 16-inch for kids 4-5 years old
  • 20-inch for kids 5-8 years old (most commonly requested)
  • 24-inch for tweens
  • 26-inch for kids 12 and up (biggest need)
  • Click here to buy a bike!
"I loved my first two-wheel bike - no training wheels! It was blue with blue-and-white...
"I loved my first two-wheel bike - no training wheels! It was blue with blue-and-white streamers and was my first taste of wind therapy." ~ Jaime Cerreta, Arizona's Family anchor(123RF and Arizona's Fmily)

Getting the bikes in shape for the kids

After the donation blitz, Recycle Your Bicycle’s work shifts from collecting bikes to getting them ready to go. Volunteers - about 200 of them - will dedicate their Saturdays in October, November, and early December to working on donated bikes. “They have quite the process where they intake the bikes,” Williams explained. “They do a triage on the bikes to determine what the bikes need. … The goal is to recycle them to like-new condition, so they look like brand-new bikes.”

Some bikes won’t need much more than new tubes and tires and perhaps a paint job. Others will require additional work, everything from light mechanical adjustments to finding and installing replacement parts. Each bike goes through a final safety check, and each one comes with a helmet.

Volunteers will dedicate their weekend to refurbishing as many as 1,000 donated bike.
Volunteers will dedicate their weekend to refurbishing as many as 1,000 donated bike.(123RF)

Caregivers will be able to pick them up before the holidays in December. “The caregivers are able to provide that as a gift to the children,” Williams said. It’s the ultimate present for a child who might not have received many gifts - something they will remember forever.

If you don’t have a bike to donate, you can still help

Recycle Your Bicycle has made it easy for you to buy a new bike for a child experiencing foster care. AZAFAP has a partnership with the Huffy Corporation to get bikes at a discount. That means you can change a child’s life in just a few clicks - less than five minutes. And it will probably cost less than waiting for a sale.

If you prefer making a monetary donation, you can. Even with volunteers doing the work, cleaning and repairing hundreds of bicycles is not cheap. AZAFAP uses cash donations to buy the supplies the volunteers need to bring the bikes up to snuff.

Speaking of volunteers, AZAFAP can always use more. You might not be in a position to help financially, but your time and effort are valuable.

Side benefits

While the Recycle Your Bicycle project is about getting kids experiencing foster care on bikes of their own, the program offers two important benefits.

First, recycling bicycles keeps them out of landfills. That’s a win for the environment. The Recycle Your Bicycle team is diligent in ensuring nothing goes to waste. If a bike cannot be refurbished, for example, volunteers will use its parts for other bicycles. Recycle Your Bicycle is looking for new and previously loved bikes, but everything gets used.

Second, the Recycle Your Bicycle program is eligible for the Foster Care Charitable Organization Tax Credit. AZAFAP is a Qualifying Foster Care Charitable Organization (QFCO Code 10008). The credit can reduce your tax bill by up to $500 if you’re a single filer and up to $1,000 for joint filers. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t cost you anything to help us make a memory of a bike for a kid!” according to RecycleYourBicycleAZ.com.

Supporting those who care for Arizona’s most vulnerable children

The Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. That’s two decades of support for foster, adoptive, and kinship families in Arizona. The organization was born out of need and is run by people who know what it’s like to care for children “in the system.” The board is comprised of foster, adoptive, and kinship parents who understand the joys and challenges of these special children because they’ve experienced them first-hand. They are passionate about helping these unique children and the adults who care for them. AZAFAP was created by families for families to offer three things - support, empowerment, and education.

“It’s not an easy job to be the caregiver of a child who has experienced traumatic things in...
“It’s not an easy job to be the caregiver of a child who has experienced traumatic things in their lives.”(123RF)

Not only does AZAFAP provide things like bikes, toys, backpacks, shoes, and jackets for children experiencing foster care, it offers support groups and training for foster, adoptive, and kinship parents. It also puts on events to connect these families while helping develop relationships both within families and among families. “Parents are able to connect, make new friends, find people they can relate to - a support system,” Williams explained.

“It’s not an easy job to be the caregiver of a child who has experienced traumatic things in their lives,” Williams continued. “Our families go above and beyond to better themselves and connect with their children, and it’s amazing to be able to serve families such as these.”

AZAFAP does not receive state funding and is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that relies on contributions and partnerships.

Arizona Lottery Gives Back is one of those partners

“The Arizona Lottery has supported Recycle Your Bicycle for many years,” Williams said.

If you thought the Arizona Lottery was just about jackpots and prizes, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. “Supporting the community is at the heart of Arizona Lottery,” explains ArizonaLottery.com. Through its Give Back arm, the Arizona Lottery pumps hundreds of millions of dollars from ticket sales into “programs and organizations doing good” in our communities. That includes helping AZAFAP give bikes to children experiencing foster care.

“The Gives Back program has amazingly contributed a great amount to help us purchase parts and supplies needed for refurbishing the bicycles,” Williams said. “We’re just so grateful to that program and the people who work there that care about our kids.”

Sponsored - The above content is created on behalf of Arizona Lottery Gives Back benefiting Recycle Your Bicycle and the Arizona Association of Foster and Adoptive Parents and does not reflect the opinions of Gray Media or its editorial staff. Click on a link to learn more about Arizona Lottery Gives Back, Recycle Your Bicycle, or AZAFAP.