By Jeff LaBonte
Saturday morning was a beautiful day to ride a bike. Fortunately, Cameron Ganong of Troop 53 in Auburn had over 80 bikes to hand out, in case anyone needed one.
As part of his final stage toward earning the rank of Eagle Scout, Ganong needed to complete a community service project. He decided he was going to collect used bikes,
clean them up, repair them, and give them away to underprivileged children. Initially, Ganong hoped to collect 50 bikes.
“Fifty just seemed like a good number”, said Ganong at the time.
It seemed like a good number to his mother Christine as well, until she saw what fifty bikes look like in her backyard.
“Once we started advertising, they [bikes] came in pretty fast, faster than we thought” said Ganong.
In the end, Ganong collected 88 bikes in total. Not only did he exceed his original goal, the entire scope of the project changed as time went on.
Exceeding your goal is usually a good problem to have. However, there were some logistical issues that came to light along the way.
“We realized that we probably needed helmets, too. A lot of the kids had never had a bike before” Ganong said.
There was also the question of storing and eventually moving 50 bikes.
“Fifty bikes took up a lot more space than we thought” said Mrs. Ganong.
Ganong actually had to work to place all of the bikes, he collected so many.
“I went to AYFS, and they matched a few. Then I went to Auburn Public Schools and matched some. I am also going through You, Inc. to try to place the remaining bikes.”
Over the course of the last 8 months, Ganong enlisted the help of family, fellow scouts, friends and local businesses in order to complete his Eagle Scout project. In addition to collecting the bikes, the bikes needed to be inspected, cleaned up, and repaired as needed.
Actually distributing the bikes became a project in itself. The bikes had to be paired with a child. Then these 70 or so families would have to somehow take delivery of the bikes. Having a parade of people to the Ganong’s home on Pakachoag Hill did not seem like the greatest option. And moving 88 bikes to another location proved to be another obstacle.
Ultimately, Ganong organized a Bike Giveaway Day at Faith Church on Faith Ave. in Auburn. So finally, on Saturday morning with the help of a Masterman’s box truck, Ganong was ready for the hand out day.
The side parking lot at Faith Church was laid out with bikes, a “test track”, a helmet station, and a repair station. Several information tables offered bike safety tips and information about scouting.
Ganong was quick to point out that he had a lot of help every step of the way. Regardless, this event was organized like something you might expect to see from a large organization, not a 15 year old.
All the bicycles were lined up and labeled. As recipients arrived at Faith Church, they registered and a scout pulled the appropriate bike. Volunteers adjusted seats and, in some cases, training wheels. The kids then moved to the helmet table where they received a new bike helmet made possible through donations from numerous local businesses.
Auburn Police Officers were present to go over the bicycling hand signals and bike riding safety tips. Officers Porcaro and Hawley worked the test track, which had simulated obstacles such as stop signs and railroad crossings.
After a spin or two through the test area, riders were able to have any final adjustments made at an onsite repair tent, and then they were on their way.
The Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout guidelines call for the candidate’s project to require “planning, development and leadership.” It is hard to imagine that this project could have been more successful. The numbers of families helped by Cameron’s initiative embodies the spirit of community service projects. Ganong managed to bring together the Scouting, business, faith and municipal communities as one and the result was tremendously beneficial.
The smiles on the faces of the youngsters receiving a bike – some for the first time in their life – were priceless. If ever there were a measure of success, that had to be it.
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