WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Rye High School graduate Lucia Villani helped Grace Bennett get adjusted to her very first bicycle, which was one of 10 to be given away Wednesday as part of a new Westchester County initiative, Bikes4Kids.
Villani, 18, is president of Linking Handlebars, which she founded in 2012 with her sister Cristiana, 17, Jenna Cammisa and Bridget Salice, all Rye High School students. They have collected 170 bicycles in two years, 36 of which they donated to Bikes4Kids, and more are on the way.
They had the idea after working at the Carver Center in Port Chester, where the underprivileged kids they serve said they never had a bicycle.
“Bicycles offer a source of entertainment, exercise and transportation, and especially around our area everybody rides bikes to places,” Villani, who will be attending Cornell University in the fall, said.
Bikes4Kids has collected and refurbished a total of 50 bicycles since April and stores them at the White Plains YMCA. Those bicycles that need repair are fixed by the Westchester Cycle Club, whose board member Bill O’Connell had the idea of the initiative.
Wednesday, the Villanis helped give away some of the bikes they collected through their organization at the White Plains YMCA basketball court. They helped kids find the bike that was right for them, and then had them test it out.
Grace, 7, and her brother John, 11, of Mount Vernon, were among the first 10 to benefit from the Bikes4Kids initiative. All 10, between the ages of 4 and 15, took home a bicycle, helmet and party bag, which put a big smile on their faces.
“I like bikes because of how they look and how they ride,” said John, who already knew how to ride a bike.
More than 20 bike shops have signed on as partners to refurbish donate bicycles. Both O'Connell and Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett said more children will benefit from this initiative on an ongoing basis.
"Westchester Cycle Club wants to continue to work with cyclists, bike owners and bike shops to get the most and best bikes we can for these kids who need and will appreciate them," O'Connell said.
To donate a bike contact WCC by email at WCCBikes4Kids@gmail.com or call 914-294-4WCC.