A nonprofit run by two brothers has delivered more than 250 bicycles to orphans across the globe and on Wednesday brought their efforts home with the donation of bikes, helmets and locks to 17 local foster youth.
Bikes 4 Orphans, created by brothers Shawnt and Sebouh Bazikian while attending St. Francis High School in 2012, was founded on the wish to raise enough money to purchase and deliver new bicycles to orphans in six different countries, including Kenya and Armenia.
When a supporting member associated with the All Saint's Church Foster Care Project in Pasadena suggested the brothers direct their work toward American foster youth — who often struggle with basic transportation daily — Shawnt Bazikian said he had to act.
"We thought that this was kind of a similar situation with the orphans in the other countries [that we've previously helped] and there is a real problem here," Shawnt Bazkian said. "The more research we did, the more we wanted to help out these foster students."
According to the Alliance for Children's Rights, there are 28,000 foster children in Los Angeles County and only about 58% make it out of high school. Of those, just 3% graduate from college.
The brothers were referred to CSU Northridge's Resilient Scholar's program, which helps emancipated foster youth succeed during their enrollment at the school. Seventeen students there were identified as in need of the wheeled transportation and given new bicycles, helmets and locks.
"The kids were unbelievably grateful and appreciative, you could really see the smiles on their faces," Shawnt Bazikian said. "One of the student's birthdays was the day before, so it was like a special treat for him."
There were 15 students at the event and the remaining two who could not attend were later delivered their bikes.
Kevin Taylor, representing Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's office, awarded the nonprofit group with a certificate of appreciation at the delivery event.
The money for the bicycles came from year-round fundraising during events such as a bike-a-thon, as well as from general donations. Bikes were purchased at cost from Velo Pasadena Bicycle Shop, which helped with delivery and also donated funds to the nonprofit. Bike manufacturer Felt Bicycles also sold the group some bikes at a discounted cost.
The nonprofit Focus on Children Now, based in Reseda, donated locks and helmets.
"We think the bikes can really help with a means of transportation and give them the motivation and independence they might need to continue with their education," Shawnt Bazkian said. "Not too many of these students have much and we think that if they really own something and they can really care for it, it becomes a part of their daily lives."
For more information and to learn about future events the nonprofit plans, visit bikes4orphans.com.