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Bikes: Catalyst of Hope for Ohio Foster Children

People serving time in some of Ohio's correctional facilities volunteer to assemble bikes for foster children. (Bike Lady, Inc.)
People serving time in some of Ohio's correctional facilities volunteer to assemble bikes for foster children. (Bike Lady, Inc.)
November 6, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Many children want a bicycle for Christmas, and the generosity of others makes that dream a reality for some Ohio children in crisis.

Now in its 10th year, Bike Lady provides new bikes to foster children who might have lived through abuse, neglect and abandonment.

Kate Koch founded the Columbus-based charity to offer children some exercise, mobility and a sense of ownership and hope.

In one case, she relates, a boy rode his bike to football tryouts and made the team. He received a partial football scholarship and became the first in his biological family to graduate high school and go to college.

"That's a profound story, where the young man did all the work but the bike was the catalyst that gave him the transportation, and therefore the opportunity, and kind of defied his circumstances and the statistics about what it says on paper how his life might have turned out," she states.

Bike Lady has given bicycles to more than 8.000 Ohio foster children in 45 counties since 2008.

The bicycles are purchased from Huffy at cost and shipped to Ohio correctional facilities, where people in prison volunteer to assemble them.

Koch says it gives offenders a chance to serve their community and make amends.

Like foster children, she notes, people who are incarcerated can also realize their past doesn't need to define their future.

But not all success stories can be shared.

"There are so many parallels between kids that are in foster care and the incarcerated, and one of those is confidentiality,” Koch explains. “Nobody can ever know who it is that's assembling the bikes, and nobody can ever know who's getting the bikes. All that matters is, if you know that one kid benefited, then others did as well."

Last year, 1,700 children received bikes, a number Koch says her group would like to hit this year as well. But it all comes down to monetary donations.

"We do not hold galas,” she points out. “We do not have fundraisers. We make an annual appeal – 100 percent of every dollar we raise goes directly to the bikes."

Also, Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Columbus Blue Jackets donate 1,800 bike helmets each year.

Mary Kuhlman/Scott Herron, Public News Service - OH