CONWAY — Students in the Kennett Middle School’s bike club are making a world of difference in other youngster’s lives.
Recycle Bike Club, in its third year and headed by comprehensive technology teacher Ron Gautreau, has revived more than 150 bicycles and given them to children who need a bike in the community.
The club includes 18 seventh-graders and 10 eighth-graders, who spend 45 minutes each day grabbing wrenches, vice grips and cans of WD-40 to bring bikes back to life.
They’re bikes that have been taken to the transfer station or abandoned on the side of the road. They are also donated by individuals, recycling centers and police departments.
Got unused bikes? “Call me, and I’ll come and get them, or if you can drop them off at the school, great,” Gautreau said.
Gaudreau credits Linda Burns, school receptionist, and health teacher Jennifer Collard with coming up with the idea of the club.
Last week, he picked up 16 bikes in Portland, Maine, and brought them to his students to breathe life into them.
Seventh-graders Jayce Anderson, Lilly Whitney, Adam St. Jean and Nathan Geoffrey worked to finish a bike on Thursday. Repairs included everything from new peddles to a seat, tires and handlebars.
“Sometimes it looks like organized chaos,” Gautreau said as the kids worked at a feverish pace.
The next stop for the bikes is being taken to Conway Elementary School, where Mandy McDonald, family liaison, will find a new home for them. More than half the kids at Conway El are in the free and reduced lunch program.
Gautreau believes in giving back to the community, and he’s passing that lesson down to the students.
He is a big Harry Chapin fan and has tried to embody the late musician’s mantra. “His motto was one day for me, one day for the next guy,” he said. “He would donate all of the proceeds from one show toward hunger before it was fashionable, and the next one was to pay his bills. All his songs reflect that it reflects humanity.”
“I’ve always thought it was important for kids to get their feet wet (volunteering),” he said. “Volunteerism is the rent that you pay to live in a society.”
Students created and built dog games they donated to the Conway Area Humane Society. You may have seen birch tree deer around town — the students designed and built those to help raise money for the annual eighth grade trip to Philadelphia. The group has made and is selling wind chimes and coat racks out of used skis.
Since the start of school this year, 40 bikes have been restored and given back to the community.
“I really like it,” Natalie Merrill, a seventh-grader said while replacing the grips on a bike's handlebars. “Everyone gets along, and we’re all working together to fix a bike to make a little boy or girl happy.”
Last year, the Mount Washington Bicycle Club donated brand-new bike helmets (Consumer Product Safety Commission approved), to be included with each bike released back into the community. State law requires bike helmets for those under 16 years of age.
“They are recommended for all ages,” Burns said.
If you have a bike that could use a new home, call the middle school at (603) 447-6364. It will be put to good use.