By Jason McDowell Creative Director Published Nov 13, 2012 at 11:56 AM

The Milwaukee Bicycle Collective is currently overhauling its youth program, and to celebrate it is giving away 15 brand new bikes thanks to help from Potawatomi Bingo Casino's Miracle on Canal Street and 

The 15 winners will also receive a light set, a lock and a helmet. Fifteen additional winners will receive a set of lights, a lock and a helmet.

Normally at the Bike Collective, all of the bicycles in stock are donated. Instead of throwing away a bike when kids break or grow out of it, their families will drop it off to be fixed for others to use.

But kids are hard on their bikes, so often while they remain structurally sound, they tend to bear gratuitous evidence of their former lives. The youth volunteers usually don't mind the scratches and dings too much, and they are happy to just have a bike. But there is something nice about starting out fresh.

Entering the contest is simple and requires three parts. First, write a story or essay that has something to do with bicycles. It can be any length, but the entrant should still work to impress the judges. The essay can be about anything as long as it expresses your feelings on bikes.

Second, draw a picture that has something to do with bikes. The picture can be about anything as long as there is a bicycle in there somewhere.

Finally, an entry form must be submitted with the essay and drawing. The entry form can be downloaded here. If you cannot print the form a hand-written form will be accepted. Full details and official rules can be found at

Entries must be submitted or postmarked by Monday, Nov. 26, which is the Monday after Thanksgiving. Winners will be announced Dec. 3.

Programs are always changing at the Bike Collective as it searches for the best way to create incentives for youth and adult volunteers. Historically, the youth program has always been treated the same as the adult program, with a volunteer work trade: volunteer for an hour and get an hour's worth of incentives. But kids have difficulty comprehending time, leading to constant "Are we there yet?"-type questions.

The exciting new program is more in a Build-Your-Own-Bike style and will hopefully be easier to understand. If a youth wants a bike, they must complete a punch card by learning about all the aspects of a bike. For instance, once they've gotten a brake session done, they've earned their brakes and can knock that off of their punch card. When they've learned about wheels, they've earned another punch. Once their punch card is filled up, they've built their bike and can ride it out of the shop.

Adults are also encouraged to volunteer at the Bike Collective to help work with the kids, fix bikes and other things around the shop, help organize parts and tools and learn more about sustainability and exercise. Adults can earn a bike through a work trade, or they can take part in other incentives, such as new parts discounts, a modest stipend or discounts at places like Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike Park. But often the camaraderie is enough to keep volunteers coming back.

If you would like to know more about the Brand New Youth Bike contest, how to volunteer or donate bicycles that you have grown out of, visit

Jason McDowell Creative Director

Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.

In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.

Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.