Free bike program gives independence to kids and adults in need

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FREMONT, Neb. (WOWT) -- Volunteers in Fremont, Nebraska are hard at work to get people in the city moving.

The kids at the Fremont Hope Center are some of the latest to benefit from the Wishing Wheels program.

"I'm tired of walking everywhere and plus, it's super cold outside,” said Robert Hearnes, a child who received a bike.

There are families in Fremont that can't afford to get from place to place. For the kids, that means they walk everywhere and for some adults, it means they can't drive to a job interview.

"A large number of people in the community send money into the fund that have heard about it, so it's really kind of a grassroots effort that has become a community-wide effort that we hope will continue growing over the years,” said David Mitchell.

Mitchell is part of a small bike club in the city; members of the group decided to put their connections in the community to good use.

They started a fund that raises tens of thousands of dollars each year. Every nickel, as they say, goes to buying bikes for those who need them like Ricky Jaimes, who has a very long walk to school.

"Like 30 minutes,” said Jaimes.

His new bike should help speed that up and someday, could even help him get to a part-time job.

"I'm going to get there faster and on time to my classes also,” said Jaimes.

"To get out of the circle of what some of these children are growing up with is to get out there, get them a job, give them responsibility,” said Deb Niles.

Niles is the backbone of the program: going out to buy the bikes, storing them at her house and delivering them to not only kids, but adults. She said Fremont is so flat that some people can get to job interviews they couldn't before with the help of Wishing Wheels.

"I hope it grows and I hope we can do more to help them,” Niles said.

Right now, the program is seasonal from fall to winter, but the next goal is to make it a year-round effort.

"The looks on the kids' faces speaks 1,000 words,” said Mitchell.

They hear the same two words over and over, year after year:

"Thank you for giving to us and helping out," Jaimes said.

"Thank you very much and I really appreciate it," Hearnes said.

This season they donated hundreds of bikes, but there are still hundreds of kids signed up for the program without a bike. If you'd like to contribute to the Wishing Wheels fund click here.

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