Trip Sets Samaritan's Wheels Turning
Monday, December 19, 2005
When 11-year-old Winston Duncan was on vacation in southern Africa in August, the Arlington boy watched people walk and walk and walk.
Eventually, he realized that walking -- many times, long distances -- was the only way the people had to get around, he said. There were few cars, fewer buses. "The people were just walking so much," Winston said. "It was such a hard sight to see. I couldn't take it."
When the fifth-grader returned home, he brainstormed with his mother on how to get people from Point A to Point B other than on two feet. Their answer: on two wheels.
Four months after his trip, the boy organized a bike collection in Arlington.
On Friday and Saturday, people pulled up in their minivans, sport-utility vehicles and hatchbacks to give away 10-speeds, three-speeds and toddler bikes that were too old, too small or too rusted.
Winston hoped to collect 75 bikes to send to Namibia, in southwest Africa. He wound up with 160 and had a few calls to pick up more.
"It's amazing," he said. "We got twice as many as our goal."
Winston pulled together the event -- at Nottingham Elementary School on Friday and Yorktown High School on Saturday -- with the help of his mother and a savvy that belies his age: He publicized his efforts by creating a Web site, contacting the media, passing out fliers at stores and holding an assembly Tuesday at Nottingham with a representative from the Namibian Embassy at his side.
Dixie Duncan, Winston's mother, said her son has always been sensitive to the needs of others and aware of poverty around the world as a result of their frequent foreign travel. Two hours into Saturday's collection, Winston was talking about applying for a grant to continue his work, as well as holding a big bike collection on Earth Day. "I want to try to make it bigger," he said.
The bikes came in all sizes and colors as owners wistfully parted with birthday or Christmas gifts, that mode of transportation that got them to work or in shape.
"I paid $400 for that bike," said Mary Lynn Skutley, 51, as a volunteer wheeled away her 15-year-old, silver 12-speed Raleigh with the pink bottle holder. "I didn't even spend that much for a car. I always bought my cars used."
She remembered that a previous, much cheaper bike had broken in half as it rode through Arlington Cemetery. Skutley rode the Raleigh for the last time about a year ago. "I commuted on it, from Adams Morgan to Virginia," said Skutley, who lives in Arlington and works in publishing.