Bikes for Tykes Program Launches

The kid rode up to the back of the shop every day, looking to fill up the tires on the Barbie bike. For weeks it continued, until Mario Costantini realized the little girl with a brightly-colored forest of beads and little braids on her head was a nine-year old boy named Tyrese, just desperate enough for a bike that he’d risk the taunts and teasing for riding a girl’s bike in his Riverwest neighborhood. Mario has seen plenty of kids like Tyrese in the fourteen years he’s been a volunteer and board member at the Holton Youth Center on Holton and Burleigh. But Tyrese and his Barbie bike drew Mario’s attention to the fact that so many city kids go without the simple spirit of independence that bike ownership brings a six-, eight-, twelve-year-old kid. He discussed the idea with his son Alex, a sophomore at Marquette University High School, whose own experience with kids at Holton led him to conceive Bykes for Tykes, a used bike drive at school as a community service project. The hope was to get 10 or 20 serviceable bikes from Marquette High families to be able to donate to kids from Holton who had never owned a bike. In two days early this spring, the donated Hernia Movers truck was flooded with over 120 bikes. The overwhelming support demonstrated a tremendous supply of used bikes in the community and led Alex to plan phase 2 of Bykes for Tykes: • A partnership was drawn between YMCA Holton Youth Center and Chris Kegel of Wheel & Sprocket bike shops. Wheel & Sprocket has been servicing each of the donated bikes so each will be in proper working order when turned over to its new owner (a local law firm donated 200 helmets for the kids) • A bike trip to Summerfest was planned as a launching point for distributing the new bikes to the kids, departing from Holton and traveling the bike path along the lake to the Summerfest Grounds. • Tyrese was invited to be the honored guest and first bike recipient at what Alex and Holton Youth Center hope to be an annual bike trip. Alex and Mario saw opportunities to grow Bykes for Tykes from one small service project to something that could help even more kids. Mario’s desire to help build a self-supporting business out of Holton to teach teens a transferable job skill brought Wheel & Sprocket to the table. The groups hope to train teens in bike repair and maintenance to make Bykes for Tykes a positive enterprise for kids of all ages. Contacts: Mario Costantini, Owner/Designer; La Lune 930 E. Burleigh, Milwaukee WI 53212 414/263-5300 Kevin Shermach, PR Manager; YMCAof Metropolitan Milwaukee 161 W. Wisconsin Ave.; Ste. 4000 414/274-0721 or 414/313-9622 Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 7 – July 2003