(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — When Sharon Ely awoke last week with an idea to help hurricane victims by collecting bicycles, she and husband / musician Joe Ely had no idea how big the drive would become.
But after notifying Austin Radio Station KGSR, the Elys were able to obtain more than 1,000 bicycles, donated by Austin-ites wanting to help those New Orleans evacuees displaced to the Houston Astrodome by Hurricane Katrina.
"Many of these people have no transportation, money or IDs and certainly can't afford the high price of gasoline today," Sharon Ely said. "They need some sort of mobility. We felt this would be a practical way that we could help."
With the help of friend Janet Gilmore (wife of musician Jimmie Dale Gilmore), the Elys began spreading the word and the donations starting pouring in.
After Friday and Saturday's drive, some 500 bikes were loaded on a 18-wheel flatbed truck – courtesy of Paul Wilshire (who owns Arbor Masters in Austin) – and delivered to the Astrodome. Musician Willie Nelson donated the fuel, which is derived from peanut oil and is called by some "Willie Bio." Austin's Hill Abell, owner of the Bicycle Sports Shop, hired 20 bicycle technicians to be certain all donated bikes were in perfect working order. The remaining 500 bikes will be given to victims now staying in Austin.
"We were very happy with the number of bikes donated," says Joe. "Austin is a prime town for this kind of drive because it's also the home of Lance Armstrong. Everybody here has a bicycle they don't ride. Some of them were brand new, and some were very expensive racing bikes. One guy came in wanting to donated money, which we couldn't accept. He went out and bought 16 brand new bikes."
"People seem very excited about donating their bikes," Sharon adds. "I believe the bikes will be very liberating for the people who feel stuck.
"This turned into something much bigger than we expected," she continued. "We had to cut off the drive on Saturday, but there are still folks bringing in bicycles. So they continue with the drive at the Bicycle Sports Shop. They only ask now that the bikes are in fairly good condition because of the labor hours." For more information, contact www.bicyclesportshop.com.
"With so many people in need, we would encourage more communities to try to collect bikes to help out."
Meanwhile, in Houston, West U Cycles is busy organizing their own bicycle drive modeled on the Austin bike drive. Houston Radio Station, KPFT, will begin spreading the word about the drive there.