When a 26-year-old Ricky Potter moved out to Campbell River from Alberta in 2015, he came with his wife, their year-and-a-half-old daughter, their three year-old son, his mother-in-law and that side of the family – and they had very little in terms of physical belongings.
But they had each other.
And it turns out they’d come to a very generous community.
“We just went on Facebook and said we’re a young family who just moved out here from Alberta and we need some help,” Potter says, “and the next thing you know people were, like, ‘I’ve got a TV for you,’ and, ‘I’ve got a couch for you,’ or, ’I’ve got a really nice something you can have for $20.’ The community pretty much set us up.”
So now he’s turned to that same platform – social media – to give something back to the community that was so generous to him and his family.
“I’m a strong believer in Karma. What goes around comes around, and this is what I see as my opportunity to pay back the good karma that I’ve received,” he says, pulling out his ratchet set to work on a kid’s bike in his backyard.
“I’ve lived a life with some serious lows, so I know what it can be like for people. I’ve been on the streets and I’ve dealt with mental health issues, so I know what life can be like for people and I know that lots of people just can’t afford a couple hundred bucks for a bike. Even $100 for a bike is way too much for some people,” he says.
So he launched Double Wheel Customs, a Facebook Page also linked to Instagram and Twitter accounts, and put out a call – the same way he did when his family first got here, except this time looking for bikes and equipment to fix them up for others instead of furnishings for his house.
“I’ve been having lots of people say they’ve got bikes for me,” he says excitedly. “There’s a guy coming up from Courtenay with a load the next time he comes up. It’s starting to pick up, for sure. I’m jumping for joy, because this is something I want to do to help people, because I’ve been there on the bottom.”
He says he doesn’t have a background in bike repair or anything, but he’s got “people who will come help me if I need it who know more than I do if I need them.”
That’s part of what he likes about the endeavour. He’s also teaching himself a new skill.
“I’m just kind of a hands-on kind of guy, I guess.”
There’s a selfish aspect to it, as well, however. He’s also using the endeavour to help himself.
“I have severe anxiety and working with my hands seems to help with that. I guess I’m turning my mental illness into something that’ll end up helping other people out, and that makes me feel awesome. I guess it’s kinda selfish, in that way, because I’m doing this to help myself while I’m helping other people.”
And he’s got the time to do it.
He was working as a general labourer for a while after spending a few years in restaurants, but his hearing impairment – which he’s had since birth – has been getting progressively worse, and now, he says, he’s considered a “safety liability” on job sites.
“I have about 25 per cent in this ear and maybe 40 per cent in this ear,” he says.
Potter has also started a crowdfunding page on youcaring.com where he is looking for $500 to buy supplies like chain grease, paint and other things to help his efforts.
“I’m not looking to make any money off this,” Potter insists. “In fact, I’m putting my own money into it, too. I just don’t have enough to put in for enough stuff like that if I’m going to do this at any serious level.”
For more on his efforts, to get in touch about donating supplies or needing a bike, contact him through Facebook by searching Double Wheel Customs.
“And it’s not just for kids,” he says. “If there are parents out there who need one because they want to get out there and ride as a family, I’m more than happy to try to make that happen for them, too. I mean, just look around us. There’s no better place to be and no better way to spend time with your family than on two wheels, so if I can help with that, I’m happy.”