Volunteer puts collecting bikes for kids in need into high gear

Each bike Deb Fortner and her husband unload from a trailer parked in their driveway has a story. Each one is also a chance for a child to pedal their way to a healthier life.

"It just warms my heart. It just warms my heart. I always try to get as many bikes as I can. I set my expectations high and I don't always meet them, but I'll collect bikes until the very last minute," said Fortner.

Every year, Fortner collects used bicycles of all shapes and sizes to donate to Free Bikes 4 Kidz, a non-profit that cleans and fixes them up and gives them to children who may not ordinarily be able to afford one.

This year, Fortner has stockpiled more than 900 bikes in her backyard to bring to the organization's annual collection day event this Saturday.

"Over the years, it's kind of taken getting involved on social media, neighborhood cleanups, city cleanups then partnering with Junk King, which donates all the bikes they take in," said Fortner.

If that seems like a lot of bikes, Fortner gathered even more last year, some 1200 for children in need.

She says as a nurse for Allina Health, she's interested in helping kids become more active, and riding a bike is something they can do for the rest of their lives.

"My husband thinks it's an addiction. I truly believe it's a passion. The last few years have been difficult in the nursing profession. I have found that this energizes me. I get to meet people, so many good things. The chance to see kids get a bike. You see that excitement, it just grows. This passion just grows," said Fortner.

Fortner says she plans to retire from nursing in November, but she'll never give up pursuing her passion for helping kids get their own set of wheels.

"I will have more time, so maybe there will be more bikes next year," said Fortner.

If you'd like to donate a bike during this year's community bike collection event on Saturday, October 8, click here to find a location.