Springfield, Mass. — If the uniforms weren't enough to capture the kids' attention at Hiram Doorman Elementary School in Springfield, Massachusetts, what the law enforcement officers were giving away certainly was. Bob Charland is the man behind Pedal Thru Youth, visiting schools in poor neighborhoods to reward kids who do well with a bicycle.
"Kids that live in poverty see the worst in law enforcement. There's a higher crime rate in poverty areas, so police are constantly in there. So now, maybe someday when this kid grows up he's gonna say, 'My first bike came from a cop,'" Charland said.
So far, he's overseen nearly 1,100 bikes given away. That'd be impressive enough if that was the whole story. But it's not. Charland is very sick.
"I have a tumor in my frontal lobe," he said. "Two years ago, they said my brain was that of somebody in his late 80s."
Most people would spend their remaining time left sitting on a beach somewhere, but Charland said that doesn't do anything for him. He's motivated by helping others.
"I made sure they promised me that when my time comes and I leave, that this is gonna keep going," he said. "It has to."
With the number of bicycles Charland's collected to give away, "keeping it going" is one worry he can take off his list.