by AARON BROM
SUN PRESS Newspapers
RU 4 FB4K (Are you for Free Bikes for Kids)? Thousands and thousands of bike donors have answered an emphatic “Yes!”
The non-profit group is so big in its sixth year that it had to open a second warehouse, in Maple Grove, to help store used bikes that are distributed to under-privileged youth.
Founder Terry Esau is an admitted “cycloholic” whose love of cycling transcended into founding FB4K in 2008. He said someone in his weekly cycling group mentioned knowing a family in need and questioned the group if they knew of anyone who had used bikes to donate.
“I called four friends and all four said they had a bike to donate,” Esau said. “My friend said, ‘That was fun. Let’s do this again.’ ”
And so sprouted a concept that has grown exponentially as FB4K distributes thousands of bikes to children in need every Christmas season. Esau said FB4K distributed between 750 and 1,500 bikes those first couple years. Now the group collects, refurbishes and distributes between 5,000 and 6,000 bikes. There are presently 4,500 bikes stored at the main Mendota Heights warehouse, and about another 1,500 are in Maple Grove.
His concept grew so fast that there are now national chapters being planned. His day job is to write and produce music for TV commercials, so his TV friends such as at KARE 11 have profiled the organization to help spread the word.
“Tons of people do this kind of thing but on a smaller scale,” Esau said. “So we’re writing a manual so people can duplicate this and open up FB4K chapters around the country.”
Of 25 million bikes sold in the country every year, Esau noted that about a third are children’s bikes, of which the children eventually outgrow.
“There are always going to be bikes sitting in garages unused,” Esau said. “People love to donate, so I said hey I’ll donate it to a good cause. We’re never going to run out of bikes as long as kids keep growing up.”
Getting donors is one thing, but collecting and refurbishing the bikes is another, and Esau said that’s where volunteers are involved. Helping the cause are such companies as Maple Grove Cycling, which donates mechanic time to rebuild the bikes and make them as close to new.
At the Maple Grove location (at Arbor Lakes right next to Whole Foods), FB4K even sponsored a contest among teams of mechanics to see who could assemble the most donated new bikes in a 90-minute time. Legendary American and Minnesotan cyclist Greg LeMond came to Maple Grove for the occasion.
FB4K will distribute the refurbished and donated new bikes Dec. 7 and 8. There are 12 give-away locations in the metro, and 800 bikes will be distributed in Maple Grove.
But don’t bring the family just yet. Each person receiving a bike is qualified through various non-profit groups.
“We partner with 150 non-profits who are already working with families in need,” Esau said. “You can’t just walk in and get a bike.”
The Maple Grove location is donated warehouse space that FB4K will only use until Dec. 9. The group will be looking for about 10 locations every year.
Esau said FB4K doesn’t need more bikes this year, but encouraged would-be donors to save their bikes for next year.
“Starting next October, we’ll need 20,000-square-feet of space again, and we can always use financial donations,” Esau said.
To help, visit FB4K.com or contact Esau at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Aaron Brom at email@example.com