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Students Assemble Bikes to Make Holidays Brighter for Kids
December 13, 2011
It's 10 a.m. on a frigid Saturday morning in early December, when
college students across the land are sleeping off a hard week
of studies and maybe an evening of TGIF partying besides. But
outside the Facilities Operations Center at Rose-Hulman Institute
of Technology, a brigade of football players unload boxed bicycle
kits from a semi-trailer and stage them on the frosty
This was the scene last Saturday when Rose-Hulman student
volunteers helped assemble, inspect, sort and deliver
bicycles in the annual Bikes for Tykes community
service drive. Inside, the building was filled with activity and
warm thoughts as a variety of student groups assembled 481 bicycles
and tricycles over the course of four hours at 44 work
For the past 10 years, Rose-Hulman students have volunteered to
take part in the Bikes for Tykes program, organized by the Exchange
Club of Terre Haute, and this year, the students built
more bikes than ever before.
"We couldn't do this without these wonderful and caring
Rose-Hulman students, and the great facilities made available on
campus," said Jeff Ennen of the Exchange Club. "With
wrenches, screw drivers and pliers in their hands, this is as
hands-on of a community service activity as you're going to
Freshman football player Grant DePalma
totes one of the nearly 500 bicycle kits that he
and team mates unloaded and staged.
Football player Grant DePalma was part of the unloading
crew. The Chicago native smiled, a fur hat perched atop his
head, as he toted a bicycle kit into the building, lining it up
with several others to provide easy access to the assembly
crews. The kit was quickly snatched and began the assembly
"We've been carrying kits since 8:15," said the civil
engineering major of his teammates. "I'm a freshman, so I'm
just starting out. Looks like I'll be doing this all four
Nearby, Chi Omega members Candice Sandberg, Maggie Schultz,
Lauren Dobias and Jessica Spore assembled a red 24-inch boys
bicycle with help from Danville High School student Melanie
Turner. This was the second community service activity of the
day for the sorority group. Their morning began earlier with
a trip to a nearby Walmart.
"Clothe-a-Child was at 5:00 this morning," Spore said.
"We take six kids each and we walk them through Walmart and make
sure they get everything they need," Sandberg added.
Now the Chi Omega members were spending the rest of their
morning assembling bicycles for hundreds of needy kids.
Turner has joined their group, Sandberg explained, as part of a
class requirement to do community service. "Somewhere she
sees herself in the future -- and she sees herself as an engineer,"
A few tables away, Delta Sigma Phi fraternity members
Andrew Moore and Nick McDonough were busy assembling a bright
orange and yellow 16-inch bike, with training wheels. "I've
never built a bike before," said Moore as he adjusted the
handlebars. "I like to build things. This allows me to
build things and the bikes go to a good cause," he concluded.
McDonough added: "For me, it's giving back by using what I'm
good at. I'm good with hands-on mechanical stuff."
A Handful of Cheer: Members of Sigma Nu
fraternity add a personal touch to each bike with
handwritten gift tags.
At a table near the end of the assembly line, Sigma Nu
fraternity members wrote personal greetings on the tags which
adorned each bicycle which will be presented to Wabash Valley
youths this holiday season.
"It started out with a simple 'happy holidays' here or 'tis the
season' there," mechanical engineering student Brock Craig
explained with a grin.
"As we went on, we wanted to make the greetings more
The hand-written gift tag messages ran the gamut from
inspirational sayings such as "It's nice to be important but it's
more important to be nice" to funny "You + new bike = Chuck
Norris." Some messages may not be understood by the youths,
like "'Get on your bike and ride' - Queen," but Craig says "I think
the parents are going to read it and have good laugh."
Once the bikes were assembled, they were moved to an area where
teams inflated the tires. As they lifted each bike to a table
top, Triangle fraternity members Zach Taylor and Collin Coker
worked with the speed and efficiency of an Indianapolis 500 race
pit crew. Okay, maybe not quite that fast.
Candice Sandberg tightens the final
nut on one of the 481 bicycles assembled by
student teams during the annual Bikes for
"It's not as easy as I thought it would be," Taylor chuckled as
he wrestled a
particularly tricky valve stem. "We had another bike where
the wheel was completely covered, so getting the implement in there
was difficult," Coker added. The students worked together to
overcome the stubborn inner tube and successfully completed the
task before lifting the next bike into position.
Coker, a mechanical engineering freshman, relates, "It's an
enjoyable experience and opportunity to give back to the community
at the holiday time.
At the end of the assembly line, members of the human powered
vehicle race team and student chapter of the American Society of
Mechanical Engineering gave each bicycle a quick inspection before
putting them in groups for pick up by community service agencies,
church and school groups, and foster homes for deliver to
Other campus groups assisting with this year's Bikes For Tykes
project came from resident halls, the American Society of Civil
Engineers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Alpha
Phi Omega service fraternity.
"Bikes For Tykes is one of our most popular community service
events. It is a great way for students to utilize their
skills to help the community," said Pete Gustafson, vice president
of student affairs and dean of students.