It’s truly inspiring to see the power of a family to take a tragic situation and make something truly positive happen for many others. This is the Chamberlain family and their heartfelt creation…Bike for Mike. I’ll tell you a bit more about the event…but first…about Mike and his family.
Mike was their son. A thriving young man who loved to cycle, travelled the world and was driven to make Hamilton a better place for cyclists. Mike also suffered from mental illness and this illness eventually took its toll about 3 years ago.
The Chamberlain family had experienced a great loss. Even with their grief, they were driven to keep Mike’s spirit and his pursuit of cycling for good health, alive! You see, Mike loved to cycle because he found happiness there. As a result, the Chamberlains were determined to help others find happiness and good health on a bicycle by starting the Bike for Mike ride and charity. An incredible event for anyone who loves to ride a bicycle.
The 3rd year for the event, is coming soon…May 5th. You can check out all the details at Bike for Mike. I had the privilege of volunteering, on behalf of Freewheel Cycle, at the bike ride last year and will be doing so this year as well. This event is only one part of the Chamberlain’s mission. Another part is to raise funds from the Bike for Mike so that every child in Hamilton has a bike to ride.
I was ecstatic to be given the chance to help out while the Chamberlains gave approximately 200 brand new bikes to families at the Holy Name of Jesus school in downtown Hamilton. Mike would be so proud! The bikes had been assembled with the help of Freewheel Cycle and a collection of volunteers recruited through Domestique-Café Cyclo Sportif.
The families began to arrive and the energy in the room changed rapidly. Christmas morning had arrived early in a house full of children. Their eyes flew wide open at the sight of the bikes, trying to catch a glance at which one might be theirs. Little hands tugging at their gentle giants, parents arms jerked and jolted from the present-induced mania. Their little fingers pointed to a distant bike as they jumped and squirmed to be set free to wander through the mechanized jungle!
The room settled and became silent when a heartfelt speech was given by Mark Chamberlain (Mike’s dad). Mark had three rules before the bikes would be released: ride the bikes, maintain the bikes and show the Hamilton councillors that it is necessary to provide safer roads for all users. Healthier, happier children lead to a better community. It was followed with a blessing of the bikes and the soon-to-be recipients.
Soon after, the kids were let loose and in search of their new toy. Organized chaos…I felt like Santa’s helper. My purpose was to ensure their helmets and bikes were fitted properly before they left.
Every moment with every child made me feel alive. Seeing their smiles and hearing “thank you Miss JJ,” made me want to cry. I had a purpose that evening, a simple one, but it was powerful for me. I had to pinch myself to make sure that this wasn’t just a fantastic dream. The Chamberlain family was bringing so much joy to so many and they were giving me a gift as well…a chance to share myself and help them in their mission.
It didn’t take long before the room was practically empty. Kids and parents were fitted on their new two-wheeled gifts and had retreated to their homes. I have no doubt bedtime was going to be delayed for many, as children begged to have just a few more minutes to ride their new vehicle of freedom.
Leaving the gym, I felt changed. I saw the power of the heart and how a few people, wrapped in hurt, managed to find the strength to take the pain and paint something beautiful. It was an honour to be a part of something so incredibly magical.