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Bicycles helping people a world away

Abby Frydryk 2008 graduate NeuquValley High School poses with group children DandorKenya. Frydryk is helping raise money for Working Bikes

Abby Frydryk, a 2008 graduate of Neuqua Valley High School, poses with a group of children in Dandora Kenya. Frydryk is helping raise money for Working Bikes, an organization that ships bicycles to developing countries. | Submitted

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If you go

What: Outdoor spinning class fundraiser to benefit Fry Family YMCA and Working Bikes

When: 9:15 a.m. Aug. 21, and 9 a.m. Aug. 24, with each class accommodating 30 participants

Where: Fry Family YMCA, 2120 95th St.

Contact: 630-904-9595

To donate: Anyone is welcome to stop by the event and give a donation without attending the class.

Donations: Sign up for a class at www.crowdrise.com/bikesforafrica or at the YMCA

Working Bikes: Learn about the nonprofit at www.workingbikes.org

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Abby Frydryk got an idea while an exchange student at Moi University in Kenya.

There she saw community health workers in HIV/AIDS clinics who needed bicycles to get to people who needed help.

“They are the people who connect the patients to the clinics,” the 2008 graduate of Neuqua Valley High School said. “They have to have a better way to do their best to provide care at a patient’s home.”

Or that contact could lead to a trip to the clinic, too, making Frydryk’s idea all the more important. She wanted to bring free bicycles to those workers.

That idea took root when she became involved in the Clinton Global Initiative University, a conference hosted by former President Bill Clinton each year for college leaders. For that she needed to choose a “commitment to action” — getting bicycles to those workers was perfect for her project.

By this time, Frydryk was on her way to the MGH Institute in Boston to become a nurse practitioner — also a result of her trip to Africa. The Indiana University graduate always had an interest in helping underserved populations.

“It definitely was eye opening,” she said of the experience. “My interest in the nurse practitioner program also stemmed from that trip. It’s about as distant (from) Naperville as you can get.”

Frydryk hopes to return to Kenya periodically throughout her life.

In the meantime, trying to put a fundraiser together on her own was harder than she thought. She quickly realized it wasn’t going to happen. But then Frydryk found Working Bikes, based in Chicago.

Working Bikes was started in 1999 by collecting bikes that were bound for the scrap yard. The nonprofit refurbishes many of the bikes and sells them in a shop. Others are used for parts, and yet others are sent to foreign countries where the bikes are used for various purposes, including helping people get around — in line with Frydryk’s mission.

The proceeds from the bike sales go to funding the shipment of bikes overseas.

“This diverts bikes that would end up in a landfill and gives them second lives,” said Marie Akerman, outreach coordinator for the organization.

Yearly, Working Bikes donates 6,000 bicycles a year to developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America. The most recent shipment went to Sierra Leone.

The organization receives bikes through donations, bike drives and drop-off locations around Chicago and the suburbs.

“Without individuals like Abby arranging drives, people with bikes in their garages wouldn’t know what to do with them otherwise,” Akerman said.

Frydryk needs to raise $3,000 to fund half the 500-bike shipment to Kenya. Working Bikes will fund the other half. The container fits up to 500 bikes that Working Bikes will provide.

To raise the money, she is partnering with the Fry Family YMCA for an outdoor spinning class in August.

“The idea of partnering with another nonprofit is kind of neat,” said Audrey Jones, the Y’s fitness director. “Working Bikes does something totally different than we do; they are people passionate about bikes.”

Fry Family YMCA will take half the proceeds from the fundraiser, with the other half going toward the $3,000 needed to ship the bikes. There is no set donation for the spinning class, and donors can attend without actually doing the class.

Trek Bicycles in Naperville is also a partner in the fundraiser.

For Frydryk, there have been some bumps in the road to making this fundraiser happen.

“I found out quickly this wasn’t something I could do myself,” she said.

But her persistence paid off, and her kindness will benefit a large number of people in Kenya — in what seems like a world away.

Email story ideas to Good Cause columnist Michelle Linn-Gust at michellelinngust@gmail.com



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