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Bicycles for Humanity loads up one last time

450 bikes to be donated to indigenous people in Colombia, South America
ONE LAST HAUL A team of volunteers helps load a shipment of 450 bicycles destined for Colombia, South America. Photo by Braden Dupuis

More than 30 volunteers gathered on a sunny Saturday morning 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, South America, where they'll be donated to some of the country's indigenous mountain population.

"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."

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.

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