MEDFORD, Ore. -- Lowriding is a way of life that has taken root in Southern Oregon through a local bike club, Familia Unida. Started by Rico Gutierrez, Familia Unida Bike Program give kids in the community a place to go to find belonging while also learning a trade.
As a former gang member, Gutierrez saw a need for a safe space for kids. He wanted to create a program that could help kids reach goals and establish skills that can be transferred to the workplace.
10 years ago, Gutierrez started Familia Unida Car Club, which focused on rebuilding and restoring cars. Then, three years ago he created Familia Unida Bike Program, which is focused on rebuilding and restoring bikes. The program’s motto is “you don’t have to get high to ride low” and that’s what they are working to achieve.
Kids who participate in the program work on donated bikes and cars, gaining experience in body work and basic mechanics. The completed bikes and cars and then taken around the state and shown in car shows. Recently, Familia Unida took home first place at a show in Salem.
Right now, there are about 66 kids a week that show up to work on their projects.
“The goal of the organization is to see the kids that we are mentoring right now become the mentors as they move on from bikes to cars and then they will help take care of the kids that are moving up in the program,” explains Gutierrez.
For those involved in the program, it’s more than just finding something fun to do or learning a new skill, it’s a family that is coming together to keep kids off the streets and give them opportunities; to spark interest in something that can carry them through life.
On Saturday, July 20, Familia Unida will be hosting the grand opening of their first shop. The event is open to the public from 12:00p.m. to 4:00p.m. All families welcome.