The Omaha Home for Boys was founded in 1920 as a facility to care for at-risk and needy youth in downtown Omaha, Nebraska. Marketing and Communications Manager Michael Watkins says the Home’s promise—to help youth become successful, productive and independent adults who contribute positively to their community—continues today more than 90 years after its founding. The mission of the private, nonprofit, nonsectarian organization is to provide care and support for at-risk youth ages 10 to 24, regardless of their race, religion or ability to pay.
Knowing nothing about the Omaha Home for Boys or its new Helping with Horsepower Bike Rebuild program didn’t deter Jeremy Colchin of Black Rose Machine Shop in Omaha from agreeing to volunteer to help rebuild a Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail to be raffled off, says Watkins. As the 16-week project progressed—dismantling, redesigning and customizing—Colchin saw more and more of himself in the kids.
“Working with the youth definitely took me back to my own days of thinking I knew more than everyone else, so it was a great opportunity for me to pass along to them some of the life lessons I’ve learned,” said Colchin, who oversaw the bike customization along with his dad, Mike. The Colchins present an image and message that many of the at-risk youth at the Omaha Home for Boys haven’t seen in awhile, if ever: one that shows a parent and child working together toward a common goal, and how that relationship evolves but remains strong despite disagreements and differences of opinion.
“Within five minutes, I knew I wanted to be involved,” said Colchin, who spent every Tuesday night from early January to mid-May of this year working on the project. “It’s an opportunity to use what I know and to teach kids something good.”
Watkins agrees: “It has a lot to do with giving these younger guys and gals direction, something to shoot for… and I enjoy giving guidance. When we first started, some of them didn’t know one end of a screwdriver from the other end. It’s really been rewarding to see them learn, and their enthusiasm was very rewarding.”
One of the young guys who has benefitted from the Helping with Horsepower program, says Watkins, is Joseph, a high school junior who came to OHB last fall. Participating in the bike program has shown Joseph a different side of the life he’s lived for most of his adolescence. He says the program has given him a new perspective, and hope that there is a brighter, happier side to life.
Joseph hopes to return to live with his family in Grand Island, Nebraska, later this year. Everything he’s done and learned in the program has proven to be valuable for a guy who says he has a strong interest in becoming a mechanic.
“I just pretty much need to switch my life around and do something good,” Joseph says. “When I go home, I’ll have a new way of seeing things. This project gave me a perspective I didn’t have before. Everybody had so much fun with it. There was no arguing, and there were always lots of smiles.”
Joseph’s not alone. “It’s been a great experience of teamwork and communication,” said Sam, a young woman who lives at OHB’s Jacobs’ Place (a transitional living apartment complex) and came to the program mid-way through the project. “I’m pretty shy, so this has also been a good confidence-builder for me. I wasn’t sure I could do this when I started, but it taught me that I can. I know now that I can do anything I put my mind to.”
The idea for rebuilding the motorcycle—designed and named “MishMash” by the youth involved—came from Laura Klock of Klock Werks Kustom Cycles in Mitchell, South Dakota, who developed the program for use around the country. In 2010, Klock Werks was assisting in a Dyno Shootout and charity ride event for CASA, the Court-Appointed Special Advocates for children program in Mitchell. During planning meetings, the Klock Werks management team discussed a separate name for this “charity assistance” group that seemed to be naturally happening. It was then that the Helping with Horsepower program was born.
Recently completed, MishMash is making the rounds this summer via various parades, events, live radio remotes, etc., to help sell raffle tickets ($20 each or six for $100). In addition to Black Rose, several other businesses in the Omaha community donated parts and services, including Top Dog Powder Coating LLC, Butterfields M.C. Parts, Performance Machine.com, Bruno’s Autoworks, Bad Dad and Industrial Plating Inc.
The motorcycle will be raffled off at OHB’s “Restoring Hearts with Bike Parts” event September 26, following a dinner at the Hilton Omaha to raise funds for the home. Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin, who won for “Children of a Lesser God” in 1987, will be the inspirational speaker. Matlin also appeared on “Seinfeld” (as Jerry’s girlfriend who lip reads at a party), “Dancing with the Stars” and is currently on “Switched at Birth,” a TV show on the ABC Family network.
Raffle tickets to win MishMash, as well as tickets to the September 26 Restoring Hearts with Bike Parts event—including sponsorships, tables and individual seating—can be purchased by contacting Trish Haniszewski at 402-457-7034 or email@example.com or at www.omahahomeforboys.org.
More information, including a week-by-week photo collage showing the transformation of MishMash, can be found at www.omahahomeforboys.org. Click on the “Get Involved” tab at the top of the page. A list of events where you can see the bike and buy tickets in person is on the website and OHB’s Facebook and Twitter pages.