With the non-profit Edgehill Bike Club, Terry Key brings hope to the children of his community
Words by Laura Drummond
“A bike saved my life,” said Terry Key, founder of the nonprofit Edgehill Bike Club in Nashville.
Growing up in a neighborhood where drugs and gangs were part of everyday life, Key felt trapped. As a teenager, he got a bicycle—something he’d always wanted—and found a way out. “A bike got me out of the neighborhood, and I started seeing a bigger world,” he said.
Key has carried that experience and his love for bikes ever since. Knowing bikes can be vehicles for change, his vision is to help kids growing up in similar circumstances. It took years—and a personal tragedy—before that vision came together as the Edgehill Bike Club, an organization that uses bicycles to educate, mentor, and support children in need.
Key lived in East Nashville with his wife and three children until the May 2010 flood destroyed their home and belongings. They were temporarily homeless until the opportunity arose to move to Edgehill Apartments, a low-income housing community in South Nashville. Having grown up in a housing project himself, Key was concerned for his own children as well as the other children in the community.
Key noticed there wasn’t much to do for the kids in the neighborhood. He thought bikes might be a good way to engage with his children and a way for them to make friends with their new neighbors. If he could help fix up old bicycles, he could teach them all a skill and introduce them to the fun of riding. He garnered help from the Edgehill United Methodist Church, which allowed him to use its space for the project. Slowly but surely, children from the neighborhood brought their bikes to be fixed. “The kids would walk to the church with a raggedy bike, and they’d be frowning, like, this isn’t going to work,” Key said. “We would fix their bike, and we’d watch these kids start smiling. They were happy because they had somebody who cared.” He knew he was on to something.
Key began organizing bike rides around the city for the Edgehill community. He remembers one particularly significant outing in which they rode bikes to Sevier Park. One 13-year-old boy admitted it was his first time seeing a park—and his first time out of his neighborhood. “There are a lot of kids stuck in the neighborhood who don’t know what down the street looks like,” Key said. “These kids would change before my eyes.”
Key’s hobby of spending time with his children and helping others quickly grew into something much more. With the support of community members and other nonprofit leaders, Terry Key established the Edgehill Bike Club as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2013. From there, it really got rolling.
The organization began collecting new bikes via donations and distributing them to neighborhood kids. Key planned more events too. “I introduced them to all kinds of leaders, and it just helped open the kids’ minds up,” Key said. He had experienced cyclists come and talk about bicycle safety. He organized an event with the police department, in which officers brought their own bicycles, interacting with and establishing trust with the neighborhood kids.
Each time Key does a little bit more, he uncovers even more needs—and then figures out how to meet them. He has organized clothing and shoe drives. He raises funds to provide Thanksgiving meals for struggling families. Every year at Christmas, he hosts the Edgehill Bike Club Christmas Giveaway, in which he rides around on his bicycle dressed as Santa Claus and hands out gifts to neighborhood kids from his bike trailer. He even acquired funds to secure scholarships for Edgehill Bike Club members to attend college.
While Key admits there are plenty of things the organization needs to keep moving forward, particularly physical space to store bicycles and tools—he currently keeps them at his home—and financial assistance, he is satisfied with all that has been accomplished so far. “When you watch a kid, and you know you had a part in saving their life, it’s priceless,” Key said.
Key’s excitement for the future is palpable. He has plans to expand the Edgehill Bike Club to other neighborhoods, uniting people from different communities through the mutual love of riding. He hopes to reach as many children as possible. “I’m trying to show these kids, you have to take one step at a time. You have to keep learning and fighting for change.”
Key is changing his community for the better—one bike at a time.