WASHINGTON -- Longtime Washington D.C. bike mechanic and nonprofit founder David Nam said learning how to work on bicycles has been kind of like a wheel hub where all the spokes of his life have connected and are now in harmony.
He said his road to building his nonprofit, Happy Joyous and Freewheeling, has been a long and winding one made better by two wheels.
"Bikes have been something that helped me feel a sense of connection and build a community," said Nam.
His family emigrated to Virginia in the 1970's when David was five years old.
David said, despite his father having fought in the elite army reconnaissance group Tiger Force during the Vietnam War, the racism he experienced growing up in Virginia still made him feel like he didn't fit in.
"I became destructive."
His family went on to live the American Dream. His parents became successful entrepreneurs through hard work. David's siblings earned advanced college degrees.
But David said it took years to shake his demons. Demons he said you don't get unless you've been unlucky enough to experience them firsthand.
"I began to feel isolated and withdrawn. I realized I needed to do something that helped young people escape their demons."
It was during this period when David decided to launch Happy Joyous and Freewheeling.
"We take bikes into schools...after-school programs...and teach kids how to put them together. How to fix them. How to ride them."
Nam said the lessons run much deeper than simply turning wrenches, fixing flats, or coasting along throughout the region's many bike paths with the wind blowing through your hair. He said the kids gain a sense of freedom, a sense of belonging, and the experience of being a part of a community.
"A lot of these kids have never learned to ride bikes. Kids feel better about themselves because they're getting healthier."
Nam said they'll help any kid, at risk or not.
For more information please visit HappyJoyouysandFreewheeling.org.