Alan Kailer, who repairs bikes for the homeless in the parking lot of United Methodist Open Door, said that his neighbor recently asked him, “Are you that bike guy?”
Kailer told him “I guess,” and his neighbor promptly donated three bikes to the cause.
After a story appeared in The Wichita Eagle in July about Kailer’s bike repair work, readers responded with bike donations and offers to help do the repairs. And Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, which is in Wichita this week, offered to hold a special event to encourage people to donate bikes.
Now Kailer’s and a friend’s garages are so full with 20 donated bikes that he’s looking for a full-time space where he can store them. That will also allow volunteers to do some work over the weekends.
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“We’ve got a couple of leads on some places downtown,” said Kailer, who has started helping a friend in Derby who also repairs and donates bikes.
When Emily Compton, the president of Goodwill Industries of Kansas, read about Kailer, she offered to donate the bikes Goodwill receives.
“If a bike is not in good condition, we have a difficult time selling it in the store,” Compton said. “So I thought it would be a good opportunity for him to pick off the parts that are good, such as tires and brakes.” So far the store has donated 12 bikes.
Jillian Kaplan, a publicist for the circus, read about Kailer in The Eagle and came up with an idea to give free circus tickets to anyone who donates a new or used bike during a bike drive Wednesday at Intrust Bank Arena. A donated tricycle earns two free tickets and a bigger bicycle will earn up to four for Thursday’s 7 p.m show.
The circus will donate the bikes it receives to Kailer to fix up as needed, and Open Door, a center in downtown Wichita that provides food and clothing for the homeless, will give them to homeless men and women.
The homeless aren’t the only ones whose lives can be transformed by bikes. One of the main groups in the circus is the Harlem Globetrotters-style King Charles Unicycle Troupe, which is staffed by men from the Bronx who found a purpose and a profession through their unicycles.
Members of the troupe will perform during the bike drive and talk to Boys and Girls Club members about the character skills and discipline they learn as circus performers.
“We’re welcoming anyone to stay and watch the demonstration,” Kaplan said. “You don’t have to donate a bike, but we’d like them to.”
If You Go
What: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey hosts a bike drive for charity. Receive two vouchers for donating a tricycle; bigger bikes are eligible for up to four tickets for Thursday’s circus performance. At 4:30 p.m., Alan Kailer will demonstrate mending techniques; at 5 p.m., King Charles Unicycle Troupe will perform.
When: 4-6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Intrust Bank Arena, 500 E. Waterman (outside box office lobby)