Ohio school librarian launches bike-repair brigade

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) – If you ask 9-year-old Jordan Starrett how she started her morning at Daniel Wright Elementary, she goes right to the details.

“We loosened the things attached to the tire and the rim strip and took the tire off the rim,” she said, describing the steps she took to remove and replace a bicycle tire. ” There’s a lot more (to bikes) than the tires and pedals. There’s a bunch of little buttons and knobs and bolts.”

Twice a week, Jordan and a handful of other students at the Dublin school gather in the library before class to fix donated bikes that will be given to kids who don’t have one.

The club “Wright’s Wheels” was started last month by school librarian Marisa Saelzler, who received a $2,000 grant from the Dublin Education Foundation . The money will pay for a storage shed for bikes, bike parts and helmets for every child who gets a bicycle.

“For kids, riding a bike is their freedom,” Saelzler said. “They can go for a ride to explore a new area, go to a friend’s house, take a break from homework or just ride for fun.”

She came up with the idea in the spring after visiting an apartment complex where two Wright students she mentors live. The girls and their neighbors were playing around an electrical box. There were no toys, no swing set.

A bicycle, she thought, could be something the students could use on their own or with their families. It would keep them active and would not cost anything beyond the purchase of a bike.

Saelzler, her husband and two school custodians started fixing bikes that were donated by staff members and were able to provide bikes for the girls, as well as other kids she knew needed them. As more donations came in, Saelzler decided to include students.

“I wanted them to, No. 1, have a learning experience and, No. 2, help in their neighborhood and community,” she said.

To help, staff members from BikeSource Dublin agreed to advise the club, observing the kids’ work, teaching them proper procedures and helping them learn about equipment and tools.

“It’s a blast,” said manager Dan Ersley. “They get excited when they use a tool they’ve never used before. It’s funny when you have a fourth-grade girl come over and you say, ‘Can you get me a wrench?” and she says, ‘You want the crescent wrench or adjustable wrench?’ “

Ersley and service manager Chet Johnson were on hand recently, working with students as they unscrewed bolts so they could remove flat tires.

“Lefty loosey, righty tighty,” Ersley told Jordan as she struggled to loosen a screw.

So far, the club has 17 bikes to fix, which is not enough to provide for the 55 students at Wright who don’t have one. Saelzler relies on donations to fulfill those needs. Meanwhile, she is working to find more grant money to pave a bike path behind the school so students can ride during recess and community members can use it as well. She hopes that a positive biking experience at school can be parlayed into an interest when the kids get older.

Students in the club, however, said they already are having a positive experience.

“It’s fun,” said fifth-grader Jade Thomas, 10. “I’m glad Mrs. Saelzler gave us the opportunity to fix the bikes so we can give it to people for Christmas presents. … I know I’m doing something good for other children.”

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