|Abdul Popoola is nine years old and had never ridden a bicycle. But his life changed in an instant when he got his own bike - for free. |
"Cool" and "awesome" was the verdict from Abdul as he checked out his smart red and black BMX Ultrasonic.
He said "basically all" his friends had bikes. And now he did, too. At first he wobbled all over the place, but was soon zipping around the Clayton North Primary schoolyard, laughing at the freedom of it all.
Such moments make it all worthwhile for Bart Sbeghen, founder of Dr Cranky’s Bikes for Kids, a volunteer-run program that fixes and gives out donated bicycles to primary school students.
"Did you see the look on his face?" Mr Sbeghen said. "He got the balance and his face just lit up."
Abdul's father, Abdulwahid Popoola, said the boy had begged him for a bike, but with his wife studying and him not
|working, they couldn’t afford one. "And he’s here today, with a bike, just for free," Mr Popoola said. "He’s excited, and I’m excited, too. He’s a restless type of person. It keeps him fit, and he can cycle to school. I’m on top of the world right now."|
Mr Sbeghen, a father of three, started Dr Cranky’s with fellow Dad Peter Hormann at Flemington Primary School. At the time, Mr Sbeghen was an advocate at Bicycle Network.
In 2014, while picking up their kids, they would adjust bike seats and chains for other students. They set up a 'bicycle hospital' that became a hub to give out donated bikes. The program was dubbed Dr Cranky’s because some staff disliked it commandeering a bin shed.
The scheme now runs in six schools around Melbourne and one in Darwin. It has helped more than 860 kids and gifted 543 bicycles. Kinder kids are offered smaller bikes and secondary students drop by to help with
|repairs. Mr Sbeghen, now a stay-at-home dad, spends about four afternoons a week, unpaid, running Dr Cranky’s clinics, helped by parent volunteers.|
PE teacher Billy Atkin, who helps run the scheme at Clayton North once a fortnight, said Mr Sbeghen’s work was "fantastic".
"Obviously, he’s got his heart in it. He’s determined to make a difference and that’s what he’s doing. It’s given kids independence so they can ride to school, and they can ride to their friends’ houses on the weekends or after school."
Mr Sbeghen says daily exercise "is the answer to our obesity crisis" and bikes are an alternative to organised sport.
"You see kids out just having adventures, they don’t even know they’re being healthy, they’re just having fun."
Schools wanting their own Dr Cranky’s, and parent volunteers, can go to the website, drcrankys.com.au