Sports affect children’s development in many ways: physically, emotionally, and socially. This is why many parents enroll their children in swimming programs, have them join organized sports teams, or teach them to ride their bikes around the neighborhood. But not every family has the means to pay for lessons or equipment, or the time to take them to and from organized activities.
This is why Reliance Foundry decided to collaborate with Recycled Equipment and Cycles, or REC for Kids Society, a local organization that gives used sports equipment to less fortunate kids and teens. The free equipment allows these kids to participate in grassroots sports in their neighborhoods. They can play street hockey, ride their bikes around the neighborhood, and kick around a soccer ball at a nearby school—while making friends in the community, and building healthy habits for the rest of their lives.
REC for Kids is modelled after a similar organization in Edmonton, Canada, and its goal is to enable kids to be healthy and active, and to have fun. If they can’t afford a bike or sports equipment to do so, the society will donate it to them. REC for Kids was started in 2007 by Derek Lucas, who enlisted the help of some friends in the White Rock Rotary Club. Though Derek passed away in 2013, his wife, Donna, as well as co-founders Don Jones and Ian Lagasse, carry on his legacy. They work with a small team of volunteers who help with answering phones, sorting and cleaning donations, and other administrative tasks.
While most of their donations stay in the immediate neighborhoods (Surrey, Langley, Cloverdale, and Delta), REC for Kids occasionally reaches further. They recently donated hockey equipment to kids in Nunavut, and soccer balls and running shoes to an orphanage in Swaziland.
Though they supply kids with team uniforms, ice skates and hockey pads, soccer balls, and more, their main business is in bicycles. Applications are taken in a first-come, first-served manner, and the Society—run entirely by volunteers—gives each child their own bike, bike lock, and helmet.
But first, REC for Kids has to get the equipment ready for distribution. Their headquarters, a donated house in Surrey, is a collection of rooms stuffed with donated equipment, organized neatly by size and sport. Downstairs, they have a garage filled with bicycles—not just lined up along the ground, but hanging from wall racks as well—and a workshop for repairs.
The repair workshop is as good as any professional bike shop, though perhaps a bit smaller. When we visited, three volunteers were working away at bikes, replacing seats, swapping out bike tire tubing, and cleaning frames.
Though their bikes and other equipment are donated, and REC for Kids are also given unclaimed, stolen bikes by the RCMP, they can’t give away used helmets for safety reasons, so we donated money to help them purchase new helmets.
REC for Kids has a van they use to deliver bikes to children’s homes. Donna says this is important because a single mother may want bikes for her kids, but if she has a baby she can’t leave at home, and no car to bring the bikes home with, she may not get to take advantage of the organization’s help. With the van, a driver can help by delivering the equipment directly to her.
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On the other hand, having clients pick up bikes has its advantages. The volunteers noticed that many of the children coming to get bikes didn’t have proper shoes—all they owned were flip flops. They started collecting gently-used runners as well, and can now supply appropriate footwear to go with the bikes as needed. If any adjustments need to be made to the bikes for fit, the workshop downstairs can also take care of these while the clients wait.
Donna remembers one girl in particular who inspired her to keep the project running. When a little girl came to pick up a bike, she told Donna how she had always dreamed of a little pink bike with a basket and streamers on the handlebars. Though she was initially a bit nervous to come into the house, the bike REC for Kids had set aside for her was a little pink bike exactly like the one she had imagined—she was ecstatic. According to Donna, “when we see the program make a child’s dreams come true, it inspires the team to keep going”.
Many of the clients are refugee families, including, especially recently, many from Syria. For these kids, a bicycle is more than just a toy. It’s a way to adjust to a new life, to fit into the community, and to connect with other people. REC for Kids doesn’t worry about organized sports. They just want to see kids, regardless of economic status, leading healthy, active lifestyles, and finding a way to be part of the group.
We’re committed to the development of the communities around us. Creating safe neighborhoods is our passion. Since 1925, Reliance Foundry has built on our traditional metal casting expertise to become an award-winning supplier of architectural site furnishings, traffic management and industrial applications. But our products would have nowhere to go—and no reason to exist—without communities.
For more information on our corporate social responsibility projects, please visit our Community Involvement page.