Northstar Sports and IBM Host Charity Event

This past Thursday and Friday, IBM and North Star Sports collaborated in a charitable bicycle-building event where teams of four IBM employees built 38 kids’ bikes that will be donated to youth programs for underprivileged Vermont youth.

Some of the local Burlington youth organizations that will receive bikes include The King Street Youth Center, The Boys and Girls Club, and the Sara Holbrook Community Center.

The bicycle-building contest is a team-building event for IBM employees; the teams of four are scored not only on the actual bike building, but also on balloon inflating, bike trivia questions and a “cheer off” among other competitive categories.

“We did not do so well on the balloons,” laughed a member of the winning team, “not enough hot air.”

Most teams had come up with clever names and costumes. The winning team, Needs Sleep, was dressed in pajamas and had a giant teddy bear mascot. Corrow’s Cribbies placed second followed by Geared Up.

IBM has been doing a bicycle-building contest for 7 years now, but this is only the second year of collaboration between IBM and North Star Sports. Before North Star got involved, the bikes were inexpensive lower quality kit bikes.

“We wanted higher quality,” said Dan Forcier, the event organizer and 1993 UVM graduate, so he contacted North Star. Jan Miller, owner of North Star Sports, was able to get a good deal from Giant and Trek for high quality bikes and helmets, paid for by IBM.

“It is a lot of fun,” said Miller, “a nice team building event with a community contribution at the end.”

After the IBM teams finished building the bikes, Jan Miller, Ian Odell and Nathan Brault, all of North Star Sports, fixed them up properly.

“[We do] a correct assembly, to make them safe for the kids” said Ian Odell, a North Star bicycle mechanic. This event is only one part of IBM’s 2005 employee charitable contribution campaign, which also includes a hat, mitten and scarf drive, a food drive and pledges to nonprofit health and human service agencies among other events.

If the kids have any problems with the bikes, they are welcome to bring them by North Star Sports for a tune up, according to Miller, “we have seen a couple [bikes] come in,” said Miller.

In the future Miller is hoping to expand the types of bikes.The IBM plant in Essex Junction employees 6000 people who commute in from all over Vermont, although isolated from the outside by security gates, does include bike lanes and racks around the plant for employees to ride to work.