Robert Half recruiting manager Kathy Downs says she “fell into” her now notable moniker, the Bike Fairy, by pairing children in foster care with new or gently used bicycles.
A couple of years ago, as a volunteer child advocate with the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association, she started gathering and repairing donated children’s bicycles in her garage in Orlando, Fla., with the help of her partner, Victor Thacker. She posted about it on social media, and the project rapidly grew.
Today, because of their efforts, 1,690 children have bikes who did not have one before.
Downs is motivated by her empathy for kids who have been separated from their biological parent or parents and haven’t yet found a permanent home.
“To a child, a bicycle is a temporary escape to a place without limitation or worry," she said. "It offers exercise and the freedom to explore.”
Serving her community in this way has been rewarding, fueling even bigger dreams for Downs. “I am as enriched by this program as the children are — by the donors, volunteers, case workers, attorneys, and foster parents and children whom I meet doing this.”
That includes Victor, her partner in bike gifting; the local school district; and the Legal Aid Society, which identifies kids to pair with bikes. Robert Half and the Florida Brain Injury Association have also contributed by purchasing helmets for the new bike owners.
Downs has been recognized by local media and legal advocates for her work, giving her a platform to address organizations about making the program available to all 35,000 children in foster care in Florida. Beyond that, she dreams of expanding it throughout the United States.
Just recently, Downs was one of five people selected from around the U.S. to be profiled in Real Simple magazine to receive a Great Neighbor Award.
“There’s no question in my mind that I was meant to do this,” Downs said. “People continue to walk into my life who make it possible to help more kids in this way. This is just all going too well for it to be a coincidence.”
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