KALKASKA — Rob Burroughs has been giving rehabilitated bicycles and tricycles to children for nearly 15 years, but he recently faced a major hurdle when eight completed bikes were stolen from his nonprofit’s shop.

“I had a delivery of 13 bikes the following day, but only had three left. So I spent the night in the shop and I built 12 bikes that night,” he said.

Burroughs runs New Lyfe Restorations, what he calls his Kalkaska-based bicycle ministry devoted to providing bikes and trikes to low-income and disabled children — including 189 bikes and 10 trikes last year alone. Sometime during the recent Labor Day weekend, one or more thieves made off with those eight bikes that had been stored outside. Burroughs said he reported the incident both to a Kalkaska County Sheriff’s deputy and his Facebook followers.

“I had a huge outpouring of support, people donating bikes and funds to help. I had enough donated to buy tubes and tires for about a dozen bikes,” he said.

Burroughs said he got started in his bicycle project years ago when childhood friends came over to play with his young children and there would be bickering about taking turns on the available bikes. He started to buy bikes at yard sales for kids’ use around his own home — as well as fixing the occasional flat tire or broken chain — until one day his oldest son brought home a friend whose family couldn’t afford a bike for him, Burroughs said.

“Then it hit me: ‘What if there are other kids out there who don’t have bikes?’”

The revelation became Burroughs’ mission. He said he’s been rehabilitating and giving away bikes off and on for more than a decade, plus for the last four years building specifically designed tricycles for children with disabilities such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.

“I’m building a trike right now for a girl with spina bifida. It’s got a hand crank and a foot crank so when her legs get tired, she can hand crank,” Burroughs said. “I custom-build them to specifically meet the needs of each child.”

Burroughs said he does not work a regular job because he is disabled, which allows him to focus his time on his bicycle ministry. He calls it a ministry because he does “try to spread the gospel,” Burroughs said. “It’s paying it forward, as God wants us to do,” he said, adding that desire is rooted in his own childhood.

“I have a huge soft spot for kids. Growing up I was very poor. We were very poor, in and out of homeless shelters,” Burroughs said. “I remember getting my first bike and it was second-hand. I remember how good it felt to get that first bike.”

Meanwhile, Jill Juoz of the Kalkaska County Sheriff’s administration office confirmed eight bikes were stolen from New Lyfe Restorations and the case remains under investigation.

New Lyfe Restorations is registered with the state as a nonprofit organization and operates from donated shop space in Kalkaska. Burroughs said the organization benefits low-income and disabled children across all of Michigan and in a handful of cases in other states.

“I’ve got a lot of kids waiting right now. There are 12 waiting on trikes,” he said.

The nonprofit depends almost entirely on donations, though Burroughs said he also buys and sells things from yard sales to make money for the nonprofit. Anyone interested in donating to the nonprofit, or in arranging a bike or trike for a child in need, can contact Burroughs through the nonprofit’s Facebook page, he said.

Need help or want to help?

Search for New Lyfe Restorations on Facebook, where messages can be sent to inquire for children in need of bikes or trikes, as well as to arrange for donations of bicycles and spare parts to the nonprofit. Also, financial donations can be made to New Lyfe Restorations at 4Front Credit Union branches, via Paypal or by sending checks to: New Lyfe Restorations, c/o Rob Burroughs, 2231 Robinson Drive NE, Kalkaska, MI 49646.

Reporter