Penn Middle school student wants to steer bikes to disadvantaged kids
Aaron Sloan wants to create a new life cycle for old bikes.
As a service project to help celebrate his bar mitzvah, the Penn Middle School seventh-grader is organizing a bicycle drive next week so that idle rides can hit the streets again.
Children's bikes will go the Braddock-based Red Lantern Bike Shop, which refurbishes damaged or unused bikes before giving them to impoverished children at no cost.
The adult bikes will head to Free Ride Pittsburgh, a do-it-yourself maintenance workshop in Pittsburgh's Point Breeze neighborhood.
Penn Township officials gave Sloan's family permission to use the former PTARC/Shelley Proskin Recreation Center as the collection point from April 9 to 11. The bikes will be kept inside until representatives of the two organizations pick them up, so the donation drive will happen rain or shine.
Sloan, who turned 13 in February, is an avid rider who frequently straps on a helmet for family outings on the many rails-to-trails paths in the region.
“People that don't have a bike or can't afford one, I want them to be able to have a bike so they can have the fun that I have when I ride,” said Sloan, whose family is giving three bikes away.
Sloan, who attends Temple David in Monroeville, is doing the drive as a tzedakah, or charity, project. It's not required as part of bar mitzvah preparations, but it reinforces that the commandments he is observing include a responsibility to the community, said his mother, Robin Sloan.
“It's a very special ceremony. It's a very special moment, and in addition to it being very special to him, he wanted to give back to the community, too,” she said.
Free Ride Pittsburgh, a nonprofit located in space near the Construction Junction materials-reuse retailer, provides an open shop setting in which people can borrow tools and learn from their peers, said Scott Gibson, a group volunteer since 2001.
Some people sign up for volunteer hours to earn a bike through “sweat equity,” he said.
“We've literally put thousands of bikes back on the street to people who want to own their own at no cost,” Gibson said.
Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2363 or [email protected].