by Carolyn Bick
On an overcast Saturday afternoon, kids and parents jostled together into Bike Works’ anteroom for the nonprofit’s twice-annual Kids Bike-O-Rama event. Volunteers fitted kids with shiny new helmets, still other kids lined up outside the door to a room filled with an array of free children’s bikes, designs and colors including delicate floral patterns, eye-catching jewel tones, Star Wars decals, and sleek shades of grey and black. Outside, volunteers and parents helped children test out their new bikes, resulting in a few tumbles that were quickly overridden by a combination of excitement and stubbornness.
Bike Works’ Community Engagement Coordinator Jasmine Bechlem said the Columbia City-based organization has been holding the Dec. 15 event “in some form or another” ever since the nonprofit was established 22 years ago. Bechlem said the event lines up with the nonprofit’s overall goal of building communities and empowering youth and adults within those communities by making sure no one lacks for transportation and health access, due to financial restrictions.
Furthermore, all the bikes and helmets at the Kids Bike-O-Rama are always given away completely free of charge, which aligns with the nonprofit’s commitment to never turn away anyone from its other classes and programs during the year, due to lack of funding.
This is crucial for many of Bike Works’ young participants, Bechlem said, as many of them are underprivileged, or immigrants and refugees. Some are even experiencing homelessness.
Most of the youth who went home with bikes that day were getting them for the first time in their lives. Because the event is aimed at children between the ages of 2-8, Bechlem said, it not only helps introduce them to biking, but it also allows them to take part in social activities with friends and family.
“They have the ability to do anything that any other child would do with a bike after school in the summer,” Bechlem said. “[They have] that access not just to health and transportation, but all the experiences that grow and develop us into dynamic human beings in the world.”
Two of these dynamic human beings were excitedly running around the bike testing area, as the boys’ father, Essa Samama, tried to corral them. Samama said he decided to get his older son a bike at the event.
“He has a smaller bike – they are sharing – but it’s gotten a little bit smaller, for him,” Samama said, gesturing towards his older son. “I was going to get a big one, but when they told me about this, I was like, ‘Okay, let me just wait, before I bought one for him.’ And he’s got a little brother, so him, too, can use the other one.”
Featured Photo: Sam Harris, right, shows Yaretzi Navarro, left, a bike, as Daniel Navarro, back left, looks on, during Bike Works’ annual Bike-O-Rama at its headquarters in Columbia City in Seattle, Washington, on Dec. 15, 2018. (Photo: Carolyn Bick)