Chuck Graeb, founder of Bikes for Kids, discovered retirement offered him the perfect opportunity to fulfill his lifelong wish of providing bicycles to children in need. Growing up in Bronx, NY during the great depression, Chuck himself was a kid “without much”. Specifically, he had a yearning for a used green Columbia bicycle his family could not afford.
When Chuck retired from teaching in 1989 he collected gently used bicycles from friends and neighbors in Old Lyme, CT. Volunteers helped with repairs, pick-ups and deliveries while others would offer up their garage or basement for storage. Chuck began to distribute bikes to local young people in need. Before he knew it, almost 1,000 bicycles had been distributed in a little over a year.
The “rotten feeling” of never owning a bike of his own inspired Chuck to change lives one bike at a time—delivering more than 12,000 bicycles in his lifetime.
David Fowler, a committed volunteer, was approached by the Graeb family in 2009 after Chuck’s passing. They asked him to continue the foundations' charitable work. With the same passion of its founder, Dave and dedicated volunteers continue to grow the organization.
In 2011 Bikes for Kids became an official 501(c)(3) non-profit. There is a now a Wheelhouse located in Essex, CT with bike storage and heated workspace for volunteers to refurbish donated bikes. A policy of providing a new helmet to every bike recipient was established.
Today, Bikes for Kids is the largest group in Connecticut giving away bicycles and new helmets to kids and folks in need. BFK has given away over 21,000 bikes. That is an average of 1,000 bikes every nine months. Roughly 1,300–1,400 bikes are donated to children in need each year.