Do you know a child that does not have a bike? The Beloit-based Bike Elves would love to help. The Bike Elves take donated bikes, fix them up and give them away to children who do not have a bicycle. There is never a cost to the child or family.
How do they do it? It all started about five years ago when Brian Reece was diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s. He was 56-years-old at the time and his doctors advised him that the more active he stayed, the longer he could hold off the effects of the disease.
As a longtime car guy, Brian had developed quite a set of mechanical skills, which he quickly put to use. A friend had dropped off some old bikes in need of repair and asked if Brian wanted to fix them up as a sort of pet project. Then, one day while Brian’s wife Anne was browsing Facebook, she saw a post about someone looking for a bike. A quick conversation with Brian was all it took to determine they would donate the bikes Brian had fixed up to the person on Facebook.
Before long, people started donating bikes to the Reeces, and more people requested them. In four years, the couple has donated more than 2,400 bikes to people in the area. The Bike Elves generally reach from Madison to Rockford, but will go outside the area if a bike is requested.
The goal and focus of the married duo is to provide bikes for kids who don’t have them, and they have a workshop full of bikes, parts and tools to get donated bikes back into shape. While Brian works on many of the bikes himself, the Bike Elves also have several volunteers (like Dave pictured above), as well as remote wrenches, who take bikes and parts home and bring them back when completed. Anne has even learned how to do some minor repairs and is able to teach others how to do things like properly inflate tires.
The couple also get support from Beloit Bicycle Company, 110 West Grand Ave., in Beloit, which lets the Reeces order all of the parts they need at cost. It also serves as a drop-off location for people to donate bikes and the bike techs at the shop have provided endless technical advice whenever asked.
“It’s been amazing how the community has all come together for this,” Anne said.
In turn, the duo provides bikes for community events when requested. They have worked with schools, church groups and were even part of the Stop the Violence event in Beloit in July.
“I’m giving back,” Brian said. “I’ve always been one to use my hands. I’d rather work for somebody or make them something than give them money.”
Anne added there is just this “feeling” they get when they are able to provide a bike to a child who is the only one in the neighborhood who doesn’t have one. Oftentimes, recipients are so overwhelmed by the generosity of the Bike Elves, they ask if there is anything they can give the Reeces in return. They always just ask recipients to do something nice for someone else.
“If every person that has gotten a bike from us does one nice thing for someone else, imagine the impact,” Anne said.
Mid-States Concrete Industries is currently hosting a Bike Drive to benefit the Bike Elves. Bikes can be dropped off in the grassy area under the trees just off to the side of our parking lot. In addition to bikes, the Bike Elves can accept bike parts, ride on toys and bike accessories like training wheels and bike locks. Even if the Bike Elves can’t repair the bike, they strip it for usable parts and then recycle the rest to buy any parts needed to repair other bikes.