At Re-Buy Cycle Shop in Langford, Robert Barron aims to bring new life to old wheels.
“We deal strictly with used bicycles and refurbished bikes,” said Barron. That’s what pays the bills, but Barron’s pride and joy is his company’s free bike exchange program, providing any child in need with a refurbished bike at no cost.
“So parents can come in and choose a bike and get free upsizing, free repairs, up to 18″ wheels,” said Barron.
The program started in 2015 when his business received a large donation of used bikes heading for the dump. Since then, Barron estimates he’s provided over two thousand child-sized bikes for families all over B.C. It didn’t take long, however, for Barron to shift the program into a new gear.
“Someone just originally asked me, ‘is there anything you can do to maybe help them pick it up?’,” Barron explained. Without hesitation, Barron happily offered his cycling expertise to whoever inquired.
“Anybody who’s watching can probably go, ‘well this guy’s got the dream job’,” said Barron, who also doesn’t charge families for his lessons.
Over the years, he’s taught nearly one thousand children the biking basics. He’s photographed many of the memorable moments and placed the images on his shop’s wall, creating a shrine titled the ‘Wall of High Fivers’. He’s even inspired volunteers to dedicate their time to the program.
“I like seeing Rob work with the kids and teaching them to ride the bikes,” said Jim Sabo, a volunteer who spends 10-15 hours a week of his free time fixing used children’s bicycles. “It’s pretty interesting to see a kid learn to ride the bike for the first time.”
Since he started, Barron says he’s learned how to teach — offering guidance to all children, from all walks of life, including children living with developmental disabilities. Earlier this month, CHEK News captured a one-on-one lesson between Barron and Ayva, a young girl who lives with severe autism.
“For a kid like her that doesn’t communicate the same as most kids do — she’s silent she doesn’t give off the same kind of communication — he was so patient with her and really teaching her some skills,” said Brigitte Beitsma, Ayva’s mother. “So it gave her a lot of confidence.”
“If I can get kids, you know, to realize that being scared and being excited are really close to the same feeling, then … I can usually make that breakthrough,” said Barron.
It won’t make him a millionaire, but with each lesson comes a priceless smile.
“Best part of my life,” said Barron. “Yeah, I’m pretty happy with where I am right now.”
Giving kids that feeling of freedom one can only achieve through that magical first ride.
For more information on the kids bike exchange program, click here.