Need a bike? They donate bikes to kids in need — and will teach them how to ride

Julie Landry Laviolette
·6 min read

Trying to get unwanted bicycles in the hands of children and adults in need is the goal of three local community-driven efforts. Here are three local organizations that collect donations of new and used bicycles:

Rick Case Bikes for Kids

The Rick Case Bikes for Kids program, led by the Rick Case Automotive Group, is the grandfather of the collection drives. This year it will continue without its namesake, Rick Case, a beloved South Florida businessman and philanthropist who died at age 77 on Sept. 21.

Rita Case, his wife and business partner of 40 years, said the family’s philanthropy and community service, including the Bikes for Kids program, will continue.

“This is not a fund-raiser. This is a community program where people drop off their unwanted bicycles,” said Rita Case, president and CEO of The Rick Case Automotive Group, which has 16 dealerships in Florida, Georgia and Ohio.

Donated bicycles are matched with Broward County children in need through South Florida social service organizations.

Since its inception in 1982, the program has given away 125,000 bicycles. This year’s goal is to get 6,500 bicycles donated and distributed. Donated bikes should be in good working order and can be dropped off at a Rick Case dealership through Dec. 21. For locations and hours, visit RickCase.com.

Rita Case said the program began 38 years ago in Ohio, where she and her husband had 14 bicycle stores in their motorcycle and moped dealerships.

“We would see some kids come in wishing to have a bicycle… and then we would see others coming in year after year buying a new bike,” Case said. “And I wondered what happened to their last bike and if their garage was full of these old bikes they had outgrown. And so it dawned on us in 1982.”

Through organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs, churches and schools, the Cases matched bicycle donations with children whose families didn’t have the means to buy their own.

The Cases eventually moved into the car business. In 1985, they moved to South Florida, and in 1986, they opened a car dealership.

Today in Broward County, the Rick Case Bikes for Kids program still partners with Boys and Girls Clubs, Kids in Distress, community organizations, area churches and schools to get bikes in the hands of kids.

Rita Case said the philanthropic legacy that she and her husband built will live on.

“We’ve had the Bikes for Kids program for 38 years and we have no plans to change it,” she said. “This is our own contribution. As long as people have bicycles in their garages that they no longer need, we will match them up with a child who could use it.”

Recyclable Bicycle Exchange

One happy recipient with his donated bike from Recyclable Bicycle Exchange, a Fort Lauderdale nonprofit.
One happy recipient with his donated bike from Recyclable Bicycle Exchange, a Fort Lauderdale nonprofit.

Jeff Torkelson of Fort Lauderdale got his first bike donation in 2009 when he was volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters. He was paired with a 9-year-old boy who didn’t know how to ride a bike and had never owned one.

“So I said, ‘How about we get you a bike and teach you how to ride it?’” said Torkelson, founder of Recyclable Bicycle Exchange in Fort Lauderdale. He got a BMX bike donated and gave it to the boy.

“I taught him how to ride it and he loved it. And I thought, ‘Well, that was kind of fun and kind of easy, and I just kept doing it.’”

Torkelson founded Recyclable Bicycle Exchange, known as RBX, in 2012.

The nonprofit accepts donations of bicycles and used bicycle parts that are rebuilt into bikes. Some are sold to the pay the bills, and about 500 to 600 a year are donated.

“We collect bikes year-round and we award bikes year-round — used bikes, new bikes and old bikes,” Torkelson said. “The better condition they are, the better, but we’ll accept individual parts and bikes and then repair as well.”

RBX has volunteer mechanics that clean and repair bikes before they are given away or sold.

Torkelson said the nonprofit works through several channels.

“We work with a lot of single parents, people with health issues, people with income issues,” he said. “We do a lot with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Epilepsy Foundation.”

RBX also partners with police departments, fire departments and schools.

Torkelson said volunteers teach kids and adults how to ride, maintain and fix their bikes. RBX also distributes 1,000 to 2,000 free new bike helmets annually through a Florida Department of Transportation program.

Each bike that leaves the shop is paired with a new helmet, but anyone can get a free helmet fitted specifically for them through the grant program, Torkelson said.

Bike donations can be dropped off at the RBX shop in Fort Lauderdale, 1216A NE Eighth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Torkelson also does pick-ups in the area, and recruits high schoolers and other volunteers who need service hours to work on bikes. For information, visit rbxfl.org.

Magic City Bicycle Collective

Magic City Bicycle Collective volunteer Marcelo Araica, left, installs bar tape on a bike for a customer. The collective is a nonprofit that accepts donations of new and used bicycles. Some bikes are sold to pay bills, and the rest are donated to those in need.
Magic City Bicycle Collective volunteer Marcelo Araica, left, installs bar tape on a bike for a customer. The collective is a nonprofit that accepts donations of new and used bicycles. Some bikes are sold to pay bills, and the rest are donated to those in need.

With a handful of volunteers working out of two shipping containers, the Magic City Bicycle Collective promotes bicycling with a cooperative spirit.

The nonprofit accepts donations of new and used bikes and bicycle parts, said Ruben van Hooidonk, president of the Magic City Bicycle Collective. The collective acts as a small used bicycle shop and a workshop where people can work on their own bike.

“The idea is to teach people so that they become more self-reliant, and that more people start to bike, which makes it safer for everyone,” said van Hooidonk, a marine biologist at the University of Miami.

Originally from the Netherlands, where bicycling is popular, van Hooidonk said when he moved to Miami in 2010 he quickly met others in the cycling community and became involved in the collective when it was formed.

Over the years, the nonprofit has donated bicycles to Lotus House, Camillus House and others in need.

“The number of bikes that we can donate depends on the number of bikes that we get donated,” he said.

Sometimes a residential complex will clear out their bicycle storage, and the collective will pick them up, fix the bikes and donate what they can. One year, the University of Miami cleared out its abandoned bicycles and collective volunteers were able to donate them.

“We’re always looking for bike donations to give back to the community,” van Hooidonk said.

The nonprofit’s goal is to empower the cycling community, he said. “Cycling is better for the environment, it’s better for our health, and it builds a community,” van Hooidonk said. “We want to promote cycling in all ways possible. We do that by providing the space and the expertise and the tools for people to work on their bikes and to fix them so that they can keep riding.”

To donate a bike, email magiccitybike@gmail.com.