Andy Martinez, a groundskeeper at UNM-Gallup, has a passion for making children happy. When he noticed kids walking around his neighborhood, he wondered why they weren’t on bikes. He fondly recalled his own youth where he’d always had a bicycle, although it was often a hand-me-down version requiring repairs.
When Martinez discovered that many families in his neighborhood could not afford to buy bikes for their children, he set out to collect used bicycles, repair them and distribute them around the neighborhood. Thus began the Bike for Life program. “I was one of five children in our family so if I wanted a bike of my own, it usually meant getting a broken one from a sibling and having to fix it,” Martinez said.
The health benefits of being a bike owner also inspire Martinez. “I’m interested in getting kids off the couch and on a bike to get them exercising. I was seeing too many kids on phones who didn’t even know what it meant to be on a bike. I feel good about getting them riding and moving,” he said.
Martinez has been relying on donations and his own personal funds to finance his bike repair undertaking. At a recent UNM-Gallup staff retreat, he shared his hobby with fellow employees and at the suggestion of Executive Director Christopher Dyer, staff were asked to contribute whatever they could toward the Bike for Life program. With a lead donation of $200 from Dyer, staff pitched in another $200. Martinez was able to purchase five new bikes, and restore two used ones which were presented to seven local children at a campus event on Friday.
Families can apply for a bicycle on the Bike for Life Facebook page. Martinez monitors the site and looks for children in need who express a desire to own, maintain and benefit from a bicycle of their own.
Martinez sums up his passion simply. “I’ve got a talent to fix bikes, and when you see the smiles on the faces of those kids, it’s all worth it.”
Visit Bike for Life for more information. To make a donation of a gently used bike, a financial contribution or volunteer time to restore bikes, contact Martinez directly through the Facebook page, or call UNM-Gallup campus at (505) 863-7500.