NERVOUS SYSTEM HEALTH

Terminally ill man rebuilds donated bikes for local kids

A terminally ill man in Massachusetts has spent the last few years rebuilding and fixing donated bicycles so that children can enjoy riding a bike regardless of their financial situation.

“Just because these kids are poor or live in poverty situations, they don’t need to feel that way when they get a bike,” Bob Charland, of Springfield, Mass., told Fox News. “They need to be happy. They need to be proud that they’re riding something new and shiny to them.”

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Charland, a trained mechanic who fixes the old bikes with new wheels, brakes, gears and pedals, was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive, degenerative brain disease. The tremors are already evident but he remains undeterred in his work.

“It gives me a sense of purpose and then, when I do get to see the smiles on the kid’s faces, it makes it all worth it,” he said.

Charland’s work began years ago, but after a local news outlet covered his story, bike donations soared. Behind the Lynndale Garage where he works, there are well over 100 bikes waiting for repair.

“There’s no shortage of work and no shortage of bikes,” he said.

Dozens of students at DeBerry Elementary School have received a bike from Charland, which Principal Stefania Raschilla said helps make them feel important and special.

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“Some of the students have never had a bike before and so they were so excited to have these bikes and have the opportunity to go home and share then with their siblings,” Raschilla said.

Children often repay Charland in the form of thank you notes and letters.

“I love getting the letters from kids,” he said. “I love getting the cards, parents saying ‘thank you.’ When you have somebody in first grade writing you a letter it really means a lot. It’s huge.”

Charland said that he wants to keep going as long as he can, and that is long-term goal is to turn his “Pedal Through Youth” start-up into an official non-profit organization.

“I’m going to keep doing this as long as I physically can,” he said. “I think I have a lot of work ahead of me.” 

Molly Line joined Fox News Channel as a Boston-based correspondent in January 2006.