More than 30 volunteers gathered on Saturday, May 14 to help load up what could be Whistler's last shipment of bikes through Bicycles for Humanity.
The grassroots organization was started by Whistlerites Pat and Brenda Montani in 2005, and over the years has provided thousands of bikes for people in impoverished areas all over the world.
But the time has come for the Montanis to step aside, Brenda said.
"It's a big job. Most of our bikes are having to come up from Vancouver now, and we have to go down and get them, prep them, put them in," she said.
"It's just my husband and I and a small trailer, and so physically it's not doable for us anymore."
The costs have risen over the years as well, with this year's shipment costing about $15,000.
Bicycles for Humanity raises money for its shipments through fundraisers with local partners like the Delta Whistler Village Suites, Brenda said, which take time to organize.
This year's shipment of 450 bikes is headed for Colombia.
"We've never been to South America, but the person who contacted me from there, I was just so impressed with what they had going already," Brenda said, shortly before a team of volunteers arrived to help load the bikes onto a shipping container.
While bikes represent a fun pastime for many locals and visitors to Whistler, for people in developing countries they can be life changing — a single bike donated to a family can mean access to work, markets and schools.
"You'd be amazed what they do with bicycles, and what they put on them to make them as functional as possible," Brenda said.
"It is life altering, for sure."
This year's shipment also included hundreds of used Whistler Blackcomb (WB) uniforms.
"Pat — bless his and his wife's heart for all the work they do — brought a trailer up to our used uniform clothing aid trailer and we loaded up his trailer," said Arthur De Jong, WB's mountain planning and environmental resource manager.
Over the last decade, WB has sent more than 30,000 winter jackets and pants to mountain communities, De Jong said.
"Mostly Romania, but also Nepal, Chile, Peru and a couple smaller packages to communities in Africa," he said.
"It's mostly what you see on our staff when you are skiing WB."
Since the Montanis started it more than a decade ago, Bicycles for Humanity has grown into a worldwide movement, with 30 active chapters in eight different countries.
Each chapter operates independently, with some rules in place to guide them — mainly, that any money raised through the project has to be put towards it.
People like the Montanis are a source of pride for Whistler, said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
"We know that Whistler is a very generous and kind community, and it extends to work done outside of our community like the Bicycles for Humanity, like the Dennehys with their significant fundraising for mental health, like the playground builders and the Syrian refugee project," the mayor said.
"Some people may think that Whistler is just a superficial town full of glitz and glamour and fun, but when we can point to these very amazing projects that these members of the community have embarked upon, it shows to people that we really do stand with citizens in the world."
While this may be the last shipment for the Montanis, if anyone is interested in taking up the cause they are invited to get in contact with Bicycles for Humanity.
For more information head to www.bicycles-for-humanity.org.
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