Sanibel Bicycle Club coordinates donation to children in Immokalee
The communities of Sanibel and Immokalee may appear to be worlds apart in many ways, but thanks to the the generosity of some kind-hearted islanders and the outpouring of appreciation from some less fortunate migrant workers, that gap appears to have been narrowed a little.
Last Wednesday morning, two trailers filled with used bicycles — collected from island residents and businesses over the past year — made their way from Sanibel to the Redlands Christian Migrant Association complex in Immokalee, where youngsters in that community may now enjoy the bikes and trikes as their own.
Four-year-old Guadalupe Gonzalez, was among the first people from the farming hub to welcome the caravan to the RCMA. She quickly climbed aboard a pint-sized red and black Trek tricycle with training wheels, although she had never ridden one before. Her mother smiled. “She’s happy,” she said in Spanish.
RCMA, which operates childcare centers and a charter school in Immokalee, distributed many bicycles to families of the children it serves, and the rest to other local charities.
“This was really neat,” said Leslie Moguil, RCMA’s Associate Executive Director. “In Sanibel, people ride bikes for pleasure and fitness. But here, they’re an important tool of life. For people who can’t afford any form of transportation, a bicycle can be their car.”
The bicycle drive has become an annual event for the Sanibel Bicycle Club. This year, the club upgraded its preparations to include a temporary bicycle repair shop at Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ.
Billy Kirkland, owner of Billy’s Bike Shop, loaned one of his professional repair technicians to the effort. Consequently, all bicycles arrived ready to ride.
“We were just thrilled to see the faces,” said Sanibel Bicycle Club member Patti Sousa, who coordinated the effort. “It’s just a warm feeling. We felt all our efforts were worth it.”
According to Sousa, the club donated $225 for repair parts, bicycle helmets and other gear. Volunteers also helped clean all of the bikes donated for this effort.
“This was the first year that we donated every bike ready to ride,” she added. “It was wonderful to see all of their smiling faces when we got there.”
Sousa’s favorite moment came when four young boys, eager to see which of the bicycles they would choose for themselves, were pointing at their favorites before picking their own.
“The look in their eyes was priceless,” she said. “One of them said he was happy because now he could help his mother do the grocery shopping. It’s a lot faster than walking.”
In addition, Sousa wanted to thank Norm and Helen Flemington, who picked up half of the bikes donated to RCMA — both on and off the island — and managed all of the repair teams; Kirkland, for donating tire tubes and saddles, for selling helmets to the club at cost and for making available his repair technician, Chris Quagliata, for more than 10 hours of work; Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ, for providing storage and work space as well as a $150 donation for helmets; and Annie Nachtheim, who fielded phone calls and coordinated pick-up of donated bikes. Her father, Dean Skaugstad, also picked up and stored 20 bikes shortly after last year’s donation.
“And we’ve already collected six bikes for next year!” Sousa added.