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In Ali's Honor, Schwinn Will Donate 100 Bikes To Louisville Kids

Kyle Carter Sr. and his son ride bikes everywhere. They ride to the park, to the store and all the places in between.

“All the time,” Carter said.

Their daily trips nearly ended a few weeks ago, however, when Kyle came home from running errands with his mother to find his bike missing. It had been stolen.

The six-year-old said it made him pretty angry to learn his bike had been nabbed.  Kyle's parents posted the news on their Facebook account. Word quickly spread and within a few days he had a new bike – a gift from a stranger, Carter said.

“We were blessed,” he said.

The two recalled the story, how mad they’d been then and how happy they are now to have a new bike for the Kyle, while standing just outside Spalding University where a red bike hangs in honor of another, now famous, Louisville bike snatching.

Muhammad Ali’s bike, a red Schwinn, was stolen in 1954 from Columbia Gym -- now Spalding University headquarters -- where The Champ began working on his boxing skills. An endeavor he undertook at the behest of a local police officer to ensure he could fulfill his wish to properly punish the thief.

As Carter and his son talk, leaning against their own bikes, a crowd of people gather beneath the red Schwinn hanging from the façade of Spalding University. Among them Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Ali’s brother, Rahman, and other city officials.

They gathered to announce that Schwinn is donating 100 bikes to local kids in honor of Muhammad Ali.

Milissa Rick, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin-based bicycle company, said the decision to donate the bikes came after Metro Councilman-elect Brandon Coan suggested the opportunity for a donation after Ali’s death.

“We were just really compelled to do this, it just felt really great, and right,” she said.
The hope, she said, is the children will remember the good deed and go on to achieve success like Ali, who is remembered more for his humanitarian legacy than his boxing career.

Schwinn is also donating helmets and bike locks, Rick said. The estimated value of the donation is about $20,000, she said.

The bikes will be distributed by Louisville Metro Police officers during a September street festival at Ali’s boyhood home in the city’s Parkhill neighborhood, Fischer said.

Only kids who’ve completed the Louisville Metro Bike Sense program will be eligible for the free bikes, Fischer said. The five-day program teaches kids bicycle safety.

Kids at the Southwick Community Center will get priority for the free bikes, Fischer said.
And he touted how the donation aligns with the city’s effort to promote cycling across the city.

“Biking is good for you, it promotes health and when we bike, instead of drive, it also helps the air in our community,” he said.

He said city efforts will continue to expand cycling infrastructure, which includes bike lanes, bike racks and bike education.

Rolf Eisinger, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said riding a bike is a confidence booster for younger residents.

“It’s freedom,” he said. “It opens up so many doors.”

For some, like Kyle Carter Sr. and his son, riding a bike is also a chance to bond. The two coast down the sidewalk side by side, talking and taking in sights. When they stop, little Kyle scans the street for a “slug bug” so he can pop his dad on the arm.
When I asked the younger Carter why he likes riding a bike, his answer is simple: “It’s awesome,” he said.

And when you ask his father what he thinks about Schwinn donating 100 bikes to kids, he thinks of his own family and the joy his son experienced after being surprised with a free bike.

“People out there still do nice things for people,” he said. “It’s kind of touching.”

Incoming 8th District Metro Councilman Brandon Coan helped arrange the donation. (Disclosure: Coan is a Louisville Public Media board member.) 

This story has been updated.  

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.