In 2012, Columbian Kim Boyer received a diagnosis of MS. Soon after, her good friend Craig Lycke offered to put a Bike MS team together for Boyer, supporting her in her fight and raising money to help find a cure. Lycke became team captain for a Bike MS team with nearly 50 members. With great determination, Lycke, Boyer, and their team raised around $23,000, winning this year’s Gateway Area Bike MS Rookie Team of the Year award. Part of the endeavor of Bike MS is local community service, and Lycke knew that with the determination and support of his Bike MS team, he could stir up the Columbia community to make a real difference in the lives of community members. That was two years ago, and now a team created to support a friend in need is going the extra mile to support our local refugee community.
Lycke was devastated when he heard about a refugee who had been hit by a car while riding his bike without a helmet. Although the individual walked away from the collision with only a few minor injuries, the helmetless rider could have suffered far worse. For refugees, a bicycle is a priceless resource that many use as their primary source of transportation to work, school, and various appointments. However many refugees can’t afford a new helmet. Shortly after hearing about the accident, Lycke and teammate Beth Shepard began brainstorming ways the community could respond to this need for helmets. Knowing that some refugees received bike donations from Refugee and Immigration Services – Catholic Charities of Northern Missouri, Lycke resolved to make a connection and see if the partnership could assist in connecting refugees with helmets. This would ensure that all refugees receiving bikes in the future also received a helmet. With the same passion that inspired the Bike MS team in 2012, Lycke began thinking of ways the community could ensure that every refugee rider could ride with the protection of a helmet, and so the seed for Helmets for Hope was planted.
Lycke’s first step was to get his team on board. With their help, he contacted some local bike shops and asked them if he could set up collection sites in their stores. People could come and drop off their safe and usable helmets to be donated to refugees at RIS. One of the local businesses even gave the campaign $100 in seed money. The local stores participating are:
Many people might not know, but helmets actually have expiration dates because of the Styrofoam used to cushion the head. After a certain amount of time the Styrofoam won’t protect a person’s head properly. Lycke explains that they will still take helmets past their expiration dates as long as the Styrofoam is still functional. He decided to name his efforts Helmets for Hope, as they are keeping refugees safe while they are beginning their new lives in the United States. Lycke understands that “those being helped are oftentimes victims of political and military strife and are fleeing nations where hope and safety are not the norm.” He describes Columbia as a community of activists, and he knew that his Helmets for Hope campaign would have a good response from community members.
Most of the endorsement for Helmets for Hope has come from flyers put up around town and word of mouth. Lycke has also received help from Lawrence Simonson at the PedNet Coalition (a local non-profit that promotes active transportation) in promoting the campaign. Bike MS got wind of Helmets for Hope, and at one of their rides, set up a collection site. At the end of the ride, some of the participants took off their helmets and donated them to the cause. So far, Lycke says he is pleased with the results of the campaign, having delivered 35 helmets to RIS so far with about 20 more to deliver.
A member of Lycke’s Bike MS team placed a flyer for Helmets for Hope in her church bulletin, where it was seen by a local Boy Scout Troop, who wishes to expand on Helmets for Hope as a service project for the community. Lycke is currently working with the troop to iron out the details.
One of Lycke’s greatest joys of the summer was seeing pictures on Facebook of refugees who had received helmets from his cause. He said that the pictures gave him “goose flesh” and inspired him to keep the campaign going. He hopes to start the campaign again in 2015, next time making it bigger and better. He knows that refugees come here with little more than the clothes on their back, and could use all the help community members are willing to give them. Refugees have been excited about their new helmets and the chance to ride safely on Columbia roadways.
RIS is so touched by the response of the Columbia community. The support of community members like Craig Lycke, his team, and programs like Helmet’s for Hope does not go unnoticed. To find out how you can support the Columbia refugee population through donations, service, or to learn more about Refugee and Immigration Services, please contact our Community Outreach Coordinator, Katie Freehling, at email@example.com.