Bicycle Recycle Honors Late Biker

 Deborah Porretto and Lisa Karrer, co-founders of Brett’s Bicycle Recycle, talked with Assemblymen Steve Stern, far right, about the non-profit during Huntington Awareness Day.  Photo: Dana E. Richter, Dana Richter Photography

Deborah Porretto and Lisa Karrer, co-founders of Brett’s Bicycle Recycle, talked with Assemblymen Steve Stern, far right, about the non-profit during Huntington Awareness Day. Photo: Dana E. Richter, Dana Richter Photography

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

Out of tragedy, something beautiful has come about.

After the death of her younger brother, Brett Rainey, in a motorcycle accident in 2015, Lisa Karrer and her wife, Deborah Porretto, of Huntington Station, were looking for a way to honor his memory and do some good. Rainey had worked in a bike shop before his death and always had a love for fixing things. Brett’s Bicycle Recycle was born as a way to recycle bikes by fixing them and donating them to those who don’t have the financial means to buy a bicycle. They’ve donated 180 bikes so far.

“Ever since Brett was four he would take apart everything and put it back together,” Karrer said. “If he didn’t like the way it worked he would make it work better.”

The organization held its first bike safety event in May 2017, giving away 75 bicycles to the Huntington community. The group has continued to donate bicycles throughout the year and held another event on Sept. 22 during Huntington Awareness Day.

People of all ages who needed bicycles were encouraged to come and test drive bikes of all sizes and styles. The organization gave out around 30 bikes, along with knee pads, reflectors, helmets, locks and, in some cases, training wheels.

“The training wheels are really great because they turn up,” Karrer said. “So when a kid wants to try without the training wheels they can just turn them up and if they’re too scared they can turn them back down so they don’t have to take them off.”

Once children outgrow their bikes, the organization is asking them to donate them back and they will be given another. They accept donations for transportation devices of all kinds from skateboards and scooters to bicycles and tricycles.

“A lot of these bikes actually have a story. One that we had gotten her brother had passed away from a fire. Or someone’s husband died and they used to ride bikes together or someone lost their child and it was their bicycle,” Karrer said. “They know someone would appreciate it even more.”

When a person donates to Brett’s Bicycle Recycle, they will get a picture of the person who is receiving the recycled bicycle, letting them know their contribution had an impact.

“We know how much it means when you give something because someone passed away and they’re giving it in their memory, letting go of something that’s so important,” Karrer said.

 Jordan Gonzalez takes a test drive during Huntington Awareness Day.  Photo: Dana E. Richter, Dana Richter Photography

Jordan Gonzalez takes a test drive during Huntington Awareness Day. Photo: Dana E. Richter, Dana Richter Photography

From the bikes the organization receives, Karrer estimates half are in good condition while the rest need major repairs or will just be used for parts.

Karrer is still learning how to repair bicycles, but gets help from volunteers with more experience. Bill Gerow has raised money for Brett’s Bicycle Recycle, and has repaired more than 40 bikes.

“You’re surprised to see how many people are willing to help,” Karrer said. “And how many people are willing to donate their time and energy and their love.”

The organization has partnered with Huntington Community First Aid Squad. When Rainey’s motorcycle accident occurred, First Aid Squad Captain Kathy Castillo was on the scene. She would later become a board member for the organization, helping to teach bike safety.

“No one sees motorcyclists, no one sees bicyclists,” Karrer said. “We try to make everybody aware and teach kids that nobody really sees you, you gotta watch out for them. You gotta keep your eyes on them because nobody is gonna pay attention to you.”

Rainey was hit by a car turning left whose driver didn’t see him coming.

“You don’t see a motorcyclist. To them, it’s so tiny,” Karrer said. “One minute it’s not there and the next second it’s right in front of them and they don’t see it.”

The organization makes donations throughout the year in Brett’s memory. Those who know someone that is in need of a bicycle can contact Brett’s Bicycle Recycle through their website, brettsbicyclerecycle.com. This is also how people can sign up to volunteer and repair bikes or donate.