Aetna-Expo Riders Help Give Bikes to Kids at Aetna South Marshall Block Party
By Ben Carbonetti
Although we spend most of our cycling time racing our bikes, there are experiences that are more rewarding than any podium ever could be. Tuesday was one of those experiences, when we were there to hand out bikes to underprivileged kids at the Aetna South Marshall Block Party. Nearby Aetna's Hartford offices, the South Marshall neighborhood is on the rise thanks to Habitat for Humanity, local church groups, and community organizations, but it still faces many of the problems associated with poverty in the inner-city. That is why Aetna partners with the city of Hartford and many other local organizations to put on the South Marshall Block Party, an annual event for the people of the neighborhood to enjoy a beautiful summer day with games, music, tons of food, and of course the now popular bike giveaway.
All of us who love to ride know the importance of a bike, particularly to a kid. All of us had a "first bike". All of us remember the moment we got it, the moment we felt the freedom it offered for the first time, the rush of human powered speed only a bicycle can deliver. That is why the bike giveaway has become so popular at the block party. Bikes are collected throughout the year, tuned up, and then given to kids at the event until they are gone. We had the privilage to help give the bikes away at this event. Decked out in our bright red team jerseys we definitely stood out, and got plenty of attention from the very eager kids. The kids' excitement at getting the bikes was probably only rivaled by our excitement about giving them away! It was touching to see how happy each kid was to pick their bike, recieve a new helmet, and rush away to try them out. Perhaps the most moving, was watching young teenagers, who after living in a rough neighborhood that rewards toughness, tried to act disinterested, but gazed longly at a bike and finally gave in and went and got one and were just as excited as the younger kids.
It goes without saying that making the bike giveaway happen is no small undertaking. And although they wouldn't want to be singled out for credit I will do it anyway. David Hildebrand, an Aetna-Expo rider and Aetna employee, and Robert "Bob" Kiernan, owner of Manchester Cycle Shop, worked incredibly hard to make this event happen. David left no stone unturned looking for bikes to add to the collection. He picked each one up and brought it to Manchester Cycle, where Bob tuned each one to make sure it would work for the kid who recieved it.
My lasting impression of this event is how much even small acts of kindness can achieve. Giving an underprivileged kid a bike is no panacea for all of the ills and unfairness in the world, but it definitely made each and every kid's day a bit brighter, and hopefully, each time they get on that bike it will make that moment a bit brighter, and from my perspective that is not such a small thing afterall.
Robert "Bob" Kiernan of Manchester Cycle adds one more bike to the trailer that will take them to Hartford for the bike giveaway.