MELROSE – There are bikes hanging from the ceiling, cluttered on the floor and on top of a workbench in Pete Slaymaker’s tiny shop. With the exception of a radio faintly playing country …
MELROSE – There are bikes hanging from the ceiling, cluttered on the floor and on top of a workbench in Pete Slaymaker’s tiny shop. With the exception of a radio faintly playing country music, Slaymaker works in absolute solitude. The retired engineer isn’t trying to make the best of a difficult situation. He’s making a difference.
Slaymaker is filling the void of losing his 35-year-old son to heart disease and knowing he and his wife Anne will never hear the playful laughter of a grandchild by turning junked bicycles into a treasured ride for a child.
There is a pile of donated bikes in front of his shop. They are in different stages of decay and neglect. Slaymaker tries to turn one a day into a shiny new ride.
“We lost our son [Zachary] in May of 2020. We were a wreck as a result. We knew we had no chance for grandkids. We were wallowing in our own pity,” Slaymaker said.
The couple read a story about a man in Charlotte, North Carolina, who refurbished junked bikes to give away to local children.
“That’s how we decided to be connected with kids,” Slaymaker said. “Then one guy said he had a bike I could have. I fixed it up and gave it away. The next thing I knew, people were dropping off their bikes, too. I had one guy deliver a truckload of them. Another had a trailer with eight or nine of them.”
Every bike is broken down to the bare frame. Most moving parts are either cleaned and inspected or replaced. Parts are pulled from several broken bikes to create a workable two-wheeler any child would be proud to ride.
Once completed, bikes are stored in a separate room adjacent to the workshop. When the room is filled, he posts a giveaway on his Facebook page. His next scheduled giveaway will be part of the Knights of Columbus’ Christmas program.
“We expect to have 14 or 15 ready for Christmas,” Slaymaker said. “The response has been tremendous. The best thing is, these are good-looking bikes when we’re done.”
The most-needed parts are wheels, seats and tires, he said. Since many of those parts have to be purchased, he fixes other bikes for the community and uses that money to keep the wheels turning on providing bikes to local children.
Slaymaker doesn’t sell bikes. Repair and refurbishing keep him so busy he doesn’t have time for the distractions, both in time and legal requirements. His only reward is the smile of a youngster riding away.
It’s a treasure that’s worth more than money.
“I just want to help kids,” he said. “This keeps me busy. It makes me happy.”