At 83 years of age, Barbara Elias feels like a kid every time her feet hit the pedals.
“I feel free. It’s like being in a sports car in slow motion.”
That’s why the Moncton grandmother is on a mission to share that sense of freedom with every child in her community.
In May, she started giving away free bicycles to underprivileged kids in Greater Moncton.
“I live near a housing corp and there are a lot of poor children there,” Elias said. “I saw a little girl riding a bicycle. She was about 10 years old and she was riding a bike for a five-year-old and her knees were around he ears.
“I said, ‘darling, you need a new bike’ and she said, ‘yes but my daddy went away and my mommy can’t afford one.'”
Elias says she was heartbroken and became determined to find that young girl a bike.
“Every kid deserves a bike and I truly believe that.”
She posted her request on a “Pay it Forward” community Facebook page and, in no time, got a response.
“I asked for a bike and, would you believe it, I got several bikes. So I had to find kids that needed those bikes.”
From then on, she was truly on a roll.
With the help of a local bicycle co-op called La Bikery, Elias turned on her obvious charm and recruited volunteers to tune up her donated rides for free.
“If I see a kid who has gotten their bike stolen, I say, ‘stop crying, guy, come on over and I will give you a bike.'”
Krysta Cowling, who runs the bicycle co-op, often helps Elias refurbish the bicycles she collects.
“The passion that she has… She is just so willing to give. It is really special.”
Elias’ backyard shed is now overflowing with bikes of all shapes and sizes that are destined for proud new owners.
She even takes in helmet donations.
“Kids are not always fussy about wearing a helmet but grandma Barbara says yes. You want your bike? You’ve got to wear a helmet and it works.”
She’s been able to match 80 kids with bikes so far. She says seeing their faces makes life a beautiful ride.
“This is amazing. A 12-year-old kid, a little girl, never had a bike in her life and she got a bike. That’s freedom.”
© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.