A slight delay and some pesky rain showers didn’t stop a collaborative effort outside the gates of Folsom State Prison Tuesday morning that will bring big smiles to many area children and adults alike this week. It was the annual bicycle distribution event thanks to continued efforts of dedication of the prison’s bike program and the dedication of local service clubs. 

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A total of 165 bikes were distributed Tuesday morning. The tradition of the annual distribution goes back decades at Folsom State Prison. The bicycles distributed are not brand new, but they may as well be. After being donated throughout the year, the bikes are refurbished inside the walls of the prison. 

Some of the donated bikes are used for parts to refurbish others, while other bikes that just need a few fresh parts are brought back to life thanks to a collaborative effort that includes the prison and the Cameron Park Rotary Club. 

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Each year, the Rotary Club furnishes the needed parts for the program. Then, it’s the handwork of the incarcerated individuals that choose to work in the prison bike shop that makes the magic happen. 

“I look forward to this event every year and it really gets better and better,” said Joe Ryan of the Cameron Park Rotary Club and the Folsom Moose Lodge. Ryan has been part of the program and has led the distribution event for decades. Each year is just as heartwarming as the previous ones as he sees the differences the program makes in many lives.  

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Tuesday’s distribution was delayed from last week when prison officials were engaged in locating an inmate who walked out of its minimum security facility. The delay forced officials and participants to perform the distribution duties in wet weather, but that didn’t dampen their enthusiasm one bit. 

The Folsom State Prison bicycle donation is a Christmas tradition that began back in 1986. Bicycles are donated throughout the year and are refurbished by incarcerated people in the workshop of the prison. 

“The bicycle rehab program at FSP is incredibly beneficial to participants by giving them an opportunity to give back,” Folsom State Prison Warden Tracy Johnson explained in last week’s Folsom Times article prior to the event “We treasure this partnership with our community and truly enjoy seeing the hard work of so many people make a difference.”

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According to Lt. Chad Deal of the California Department of Corrections and Ryan, a single incarcerated person by the name of Charles rehabbed all 200 of the bicycles this year. The work takes place in a small but well equipped workshop just inside the prison that looks much like that you would see behind the scenes of a local bike shop that makes repairs and assembles them.

Some of the repairs that are made require a great deal of mechanical skills, especially when it comes to repairing items like shifters, gears and cable brake systems. All of the bikes are closely inspected to be in great operating condition before they are staged for distribution. 

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The bikes are distributed to various areas through a handful of partners that include educational institutions, charities that help the homeless and others. The bikes not only go to children in need across the region, they are provided for many adults who have no other form of transportation.  Bikes are supplied to those in need locally and afar, even to areas of Oakland, according to Ryan. 

“From the bicycles seeing a new life to the many people it touches during collection, coordination and distribution, this program is a win-win,” added Ryan, who enjoys his longtime role in this program that helps so many. 

Now that the distribution is complete, the work doesn’t stop at Folsom State Prison. The bike shop operates all year long and the Cameron Park Rotary Club delivers donating bikes they collect on a regular basis from local recycling centers and such. Some folks have even dropped off a used bicycle at the prison gates on occasion.

Those wishing to get involved with the bike donation program should contact the Cameron Park Rotary Club. They can be reached through their website at www.cameronparkrotary.org and just visit the “contact us” section.  

This article is part of Folsom Times’ continued coverage “Behind Prison Walls,” which focuses on programs inside Folsom Prison and the community. Content for this series is provided in part by the California Department of Corrections, the California Prison Authority and Folsom Times staff.

Bill Sullivan
Author: Bill Sullivan