Could 11 new bikes kick-start city-wide gathering in bike assembly?

Urban Systems Foundation and city staff gift 11 bicycles to children in Cranbrook


The story has become somewhat of a legend at Urban Systems Kelowna branch. At one of their year-end appreciation parties 10 years ago, staff got together in groups to build children’s bicycles. While they understood the team-building value of the exercise, many staff member were left feeling a bit confused — why kids’ bicycles?

It was not until the end of the night that an announcement was made: the bicycles would be donated to children in need. One of the recipient families attended the event.

“That story still gets told,” says Sheldon Gull, director of the Urban Systems Foundation branch in Kelowna. During recent conversations with the foundation committee, a collective desire to reach out to remote communities the team appreciates surfaced and led to the opportunity to put the legendary story into practice once again.

On Dec. 12 in Cranbrook, B.C., Urban staff from the Kelowna and Nelson branches came together with Cranbrook city councillors, city staff, Big Brothers and Big Sisters volunteers and staff, local bike shop volunteers and children who would receive new bicycles following the event.

Urban Systems civil engineer Anthony Comazzetto, receptionist/project co-ordinator Melissa Miller and civil engineering technologist Rob Mogentale were among the group of 35 people gathered at the Prestige Inn. The group split into diverse teams of four or five to co-assemble 11 bicycles. With the team-building concept still in effect, there was a bit of a catch: each team member could only use one hand during the assembly process, strengthening the dependency each member had with others in their group — which in many cases consisted of individuals they didn’t know.

“Seeing a bunch of strangers come together in a room and absolutely enjoy the evening — it was all very free spirited and fun. I saw City councillors laughing and smiling right alongside with kids and enjoying the conversations,” Sheldon recalls. “We were all equals enjoying the night and having a lot of fun for a great cause, and I think that sinks home for a lot of people.”

The bicycles were purchased from Gericks Sports in Cranbrook, which provided the bicycles for the event on short notice. Some staff and the bike shop owner, Mike Stephen, also participated in the event to ensure that the bicycles were assembled correctly. Gericks Sports gathered the bikes back at the end of the night to further ensure they were safe and properly tuned before distribution. During the event, each child was provided with a bicycle lock for their new wheels and a gift certificate they can use to select a helmet at Gericks Sports.

As a passionate cyclist who promotes sustainable modes of transportation through his work in transportation planning and design, Sheldon was especially excited to merge his passions with an opportunity to support the growth of children. “It’s something ingrained in me. When it involves kids, it really hits home,” he says.

“I have this grand idea: I’d love to see a day where the foundation leverages some of our connections to make this a city-wide event where we get a number of local bike shops, donors, advocacy groups and volunteers involved so instead of 10 or 12 bikes, it’s 100 bikes and it involves the community coming out together,” he says. “Instead of a small event room in a hotel, it could be held in a gymnasium full of people. It’s still a bit of a pipe dream for now, but it certainly is something to aspire towards.”

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