Teacher providing bike repairs in support of Portage Elora

ELORA – Todd Willoughby, a physical and outdoor education teacher from Elora, is providing repairs, tune-ups, and safety checks for all types of non-electric bikes and scooters in support of Portage Elora’s mountain bike program to help introduce at-risk youth to the sport.

“Basically, how it works is, people will pay whatever they need for parts, but the labour part is on a donation basis,” Willoughby said in an interview with the Advertiser.

“I keep half of it for myself, and then the other half goes to Portage.”

Portage Ontario, a non-profit organization established in 1985, operates a residential drug addiction rehabilitation centre in Elora for youth aged 14 to 18.

The organization has helped tens of thousands of people take back control of their lives with specialized drug rehabilitation programs at various centres in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Atlantic Canada.

An average stay is six months, followed by 18 months of after-care in one’s home community.

The Elora facility includes the Portage Academy, offering on-site school programming through the Upper Grand District School Board.

Willoughby, who has been teaching physical and outdoor education at the Portage Academy for 12 years, said prior to the pandemic mountain biking had become very popular at Portage.

“We’ve been really limited. In a typical year, we’d bike down to Guelph Lake once a week and spend an afternoon biking,” he said.

“We haven’t been able to do any of that stuff in the last year and a half. Hopefully, come the fall, we’ll be able to get back into it.”

Willoughby said he has been offering bike repairs from his Elora home for a couple of months now.

“It’s normally something I do every year with my students,” he said.

“Every year I teach them how to do bike work. We’ll fix up our school bikes, they’ll learn how to work on those bikes, and then we’ll bring bikes in from the community and work on a donation basis, and then use that donation money to help pay for the upkeep on our bikes.”

Willoughby said without in-person classes this year, he missed the bike repairs, so he began doing them out of his garage instead.

“I basically just do it during the evenings, weekends, and free time,” Willoughby said.

He stressed he is not trying to compete with local bike shops for business.

“I don’t want to come across like I’m trying to steal the local bike shops’ business, because they’re great guys,” Willoughby said.

“I’m a guy who’s trying to do small repairs, but for people that really need proper stuff done, the bike shop in town is a good spot for them.”

In an email to the Advertiser, Portage’s manager of development Ashley-Ann Maginnis said being active and getting outdoors is a way for youth to cope and handle their struggles.

“The end of this pandemic is in sight, and we are about to venture into a new crisis,” Maginnis said.

“The number of youth suffering from being isolated, causing increased self-harm and finding relief in substances is alarming.”

Maginnis called Willoughby’s support for the Portage community “heart-warming.”

“His dedication to our residents providing an outlet such as cycling is a very important part of our program,” she said.

“We are so proud of him and all of our staff, who continue to go above and beyond for at-risk youth.”

Maginnis added Portage Ontario has been fortunate to have had the community’s support over the past 35 years.

To this point, Willoughby has raised $300 in donations from people who have had their bikes repaired with him.

Willoughby said people can email him at todd.willoughby@ugdsb.on.ca to inquire about repairs.