Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation grant helps Wheels for Winners provide bicycling experiences for local families
After being cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, the PGA TOUR Champions American Family Insurance Championship returned in 2021 and raised $2.3 million for charity, despite the absence of some events, such as the celebrity foursome and Breese Stevens concert, due to ongoing pandemic concerns. The Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation continues to make an impact in our communities by helping charitable organizations do their important work. As we lead up to the 2022 event, and the return of all tournament events and more, we highlight one of those organizations.
Cycling has taken on increased importance in the last few years as a recreational activity and means of transportation. Wheels for Winners seeks to provide equitable access to cycling for Madison area kids and families who do not have the resources or confidence to enjoy the activity. Wheels for Winners offers people the opportunity to own their own bikes, receive free bike repairs at community events and participate in organized biking activities in their neighborhoods.
Wheels for Winners first opened its doors in 1992 after noticing the large number of bicycles abandoned or left unused in the Madison area that could be refurbished for continued use. The founders of Wheels for Winners decided to collect these bikes, repair them so they were safe for riding, and start the Earn a Bike program to enable kids and others to get a bike by helping their community through service activities.
To meet the needs of the community, the organization later added other features to its core programming. For example, after implementing the Earn a Bike program, Wheels for Winners noticed many of the bikes were not being properly maintained by their owners, so its volunteer mechanics went out into the community to provide free repairs. To increase riding opportunities in the community, Wheels for Winners helped support bike-lending libraries, which ensured greater access to bikes for participants at community rides. Rather than take full ownership of the bike, the library allows anyone to check-out a bike for a short period of time.
“Not every kid has the ability or interest in owning a bike because of the responsibilities associated with it, such as maintenance and repair,” explains Richard Castelnuovo, Wheels for Winners board chair and volunteer since 2005. “The bike library allows them to use our bikes for transportation or enjoyment, without bearing all of the responsibility.” (See the video above for more information.)
Castelnuovo, along with the rest of the Wheels for Winners staff, is completely volunteer. Their board has adapted through the years to reflect the needs of the community they serve; 80 percent are minorities and people of color, who may face different barriers of entry to biking.
“One of the main barriers for this population is becoming comfortable riding a bike,” said Castelnuovo. “Many are not familiar with locations of bike paths or could be worried they may be stopped by law enforcement. We also want to build their confidence in riding and repairing bikes, which we’ve been able to achieve with our partner, BikEquity.”
Wheels for Winners partners with BikEquity to organize community rides in different neighborhoods. These rides focus on building confidence and learning how to maintain the bike. They also offer repair clinics at community rides and have repaired more than 400 bikes in the last year.
The Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation grant, along with other support, ensures Wheels for Winners can continue to facilitate ownership and repair initiatives and support riding events in the community, including paying outside staff to promote and coordinate rides. They were also able to purchase a trailer to expand opportunities to transport bikes for school riding clubs.
Learn more about Wheels for Winners and their positive impact in the Madison and Dane County community through community service, education and ownership by visiting their website.
Since the inaugural event in 2016 through 2021, the American Family Insurance Championship has provided proceeds of nearly $12.6 million through 560 charitable grants to the American Family Children’s Hospital and other nonprofit organizations through the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation. The 2022 event takes place June 4-12 with tournament play June 10-12 at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison.