Kids learn basic bike maintenance during LEAP program

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
Thomas Bradley, 13, rolled away from the Boys & Girls Club of the Greater Santiam with his new bike on Friday, Aug. 27.
Bradley and a group of other kids from throughout Linn County, had just spent the week learning how to fix a flat, adjust brakes and perform basic maintenance on bikes they had chosen for themselves from a selection of donated used velocipedes.
It was the culmination of a nine-week program provided by the club this summer that included enrichment activities such as kayaking, lacrosse, pinewood derby, Frisbee golf and orienteering.

Club kids are paired up to work as a team on each others’ bikes.

“We tried to make a list of things that either there was limited access to in our area, or that might be cost-prohibitive or that required transportation,” said Kris Latimer, the club’s executive director.
The program, LEAP (Learning through Enrichment Activity and Play), was funded by a new grant made available to Linn County from Nike.
The Boys & Girls Club won $15,000 to provide enrichment activities for kids who may not have many chances to have a lot of broad experiences, Latimer said. Kids from Sweet Home and Albany were selected to join the program, which was held at the club’s Lebanon location.
During the final week of LEAP, Lance Latimer, of the Boys & Girls Club of Bellevue (Wash.), brought down his WheelLab trailer to teach the kids how to repair and ride bicycles safely.
“I think it’s actually really cool because I’ve always kinda liked things like this where you take things apart, redo things and add things to them,” said Evelyn Mattingly, 12, of Albany. “It’s super fun.”

STUDENTS Shawn Fields, left, and Xavier Pennington work together to repair a bike.

WheelLab, a non-profit, provides week-long camps at schools, clubs and homeless shelters. Latimer gets bicycles from donations – usually from police departments – and uses them to teach repair skills before giving the bike to the student.
“The goal has always been for me that they put the work in and, when they’re done, it becomes their bike,” he said.
Running WheelLab out of a trailer was another important goal for Latimer, so that accessibility would not be a hindrance, he said.
“I wanted to make sure it got to the kids that needed it the most, and that they got a bike to have a solid piece of transportation to ride,” he said. “It’s also their first part of freedom.”