Some lower-income veterans in Reno face a lot of challenges. Lack of transportation can make it even harder. Now the Kiwanis Bike Project is offering veterans a way to learn to fix bikes and get that much-needed transportation. Reno Youth Radio’s Wyatt Daane checked it out.
At Kiwanis Bikes you are surrounded by a sea of bicycles and bike experts. On this day, those experts are listening to the radio and helping nine veterans. The bikes they fix will help them get back on their feet.
The program is called Project Hero, and Reno has been a chapter since October of 2013. Helping get veterans much-needed transportation is an important feat for Project Coordinator April Wolfe.
“I have had the opportunity to work with a great group of veterans, helping them train for their personal goals.”
One man working towards his personal goal of getting more in shape is US Navy Vet, Todd Lacey.
“Being 57 years old, one of the huge benefits is just getting out here and working your shoulders, working your back, working your body,” Lacey says.
For him, fixing this bike feels good and the teamwork reminds him of the past.
“Getting ready for battle stations, you work together, so this is just another wonderful period of reminiscence when you are all working together.
Not only does it improve his health and remind him of the past, this bike could help him get a job.
They also test rode their bikes, and that brings back memories, too. Lacey remembers when America wasn’t so friendly to vets and he had to walk everywhere. That’s a bad memory.
“We’ve come a long way,” he says. “Back when I was stationed in Boston, I couldn’t walk to the subway because you got beat up all the time. It was pretty brutal, and we just have some great people that support veterans and create programs like this.”
Another veteran, Alex Ribas agrees. He feels a lot safer now that he has a bike.
“I was walking and some crazy drunk guy came out and tried to rob me and he stabbed me,” Ribas remembers. “If I hadn’t been walking, if I had been on a bicycle, I wouldn’t have been in that situation. I would have avoided the whole situation. Having a bike I feel safer.”
He told me that he feels more independent, too, because the program has given him the knowledge and the tools to fix the bike if it breaks down.
“I needed a bicycle to get on my feet and get to work,” Ribas says, “so the Veterans Administration told me to sign up and brought me down here. My friends are all happy, you see them? I’m happy! It feels like a little kid at Christmas!”
According to our Reno Youth Radio program, since this story was produced, the Kiwanis Bike Project has actually been burglarized. No bikes were taken, but thieves made off with more than $3,000 of equipment. The project's Executive Director Ellen Jacobson says they repair bikes for veterans, children, and the homeless...and the amount lost is equivalent to providing 100 bikes for kids.