CAMARILLO : Shop Owner Steers Rebuilt Bikes to Kids

Camarillo bike shop owner Chris Lorelli is especially busy this time of year.

He isn't just selling BMX, 10-speed and mountain bikes. He is also breathing new life into the discarded frames, wheels and seats that people from across the county donate to his store.

Lorelli spends between 30 minutes and three hours restoring each broken-down bicycle. Then he begins looking for needy families and children.

He doesn't have far to look.

"Some of these kids have never had bikes," he said. "Others have had their bikes stolen and their parents can't afford to replace them."

For the past five years, Lorelli has been piecing together donated parts and presenting the finished products to area youngsters. He is busiest, he says, during the Christmas season.

"This is when I really want to see the donations coming in," he said Friday, perched behind the counter of his Cycle Surgeon bike shop in Old Town Camarillo.

"That way, we can get the bikes to the kids by Christmas."

During the past three months, Lorelli has restored more than 60 bicycles, offering the fully functional two-wheelers to local schools, charities and churches, which match the bikes with needy children.

Lorelli is reluctant to estimate how many bicycles he has rebuilt and donated in the past few years. But he guesses somewhere in the hundreds.

Joan Cherno, who teaches speech therapy at two Camarillo schools, said some of her students routinely do without during the gift-giving season. Most years, the schools organize a charity drive, which includes bikes for young children.

"There's so many needy kids in our area," Cherno said. "With this bike-giving program, there is a Santa Claus for these people."

For his part, Lorelli, 35, would rather not be present when beneficiaries of his program receive their bikes. But he does admit to a certain self-satisfaction when he sees a child riding by on a bike he rebuilt.

"I like to see the looks on their faces," Lorelli said. "They're kids on bikes."

To donate bicycle parts to Lorelli, call 482-8084.

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