SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Bob “The Bike Man” Charland, founder of Pedal Thru Youth, was honored Wednesday with a surprise from The Western Mass Hyundai Dealers as the winner of the 2022 Hyundai Salute to Heroes.
Pulling off the surprise was a bit of a challenge. Gary Rome, President of Gary Rome Hyundai, slowly drove the new 2023 Hyundai Tucson through the Eastfield Mall, parking it outside of the Pedal Thru Youth repair shop.
“This is the guy who does the next right thing all the time. Look at all the people here, what a testament to him. This is fantastic,” said Rome.
Charland was chosen by a panel of three judges from a pool of hundreds of nominations as the 2022 winner.
Brian Houser, General Manager Balise Hyundai thinks Charland is a true hero. “The things he does everyday, you can tell he looks out for others before himself, that’s the true definition of a hero when we are looking for salute to heroes.”
Charland’s diagnosis of a neurodegenerative disease does not stand in the way of what he does for the community. He founded Pedal Thru Youth, which supplies bikes and helmets to children in need. He also organizes and distributes backpacks filled with warm gear to the homeless population in Western Massachusetts.
“Bob has helped out everyone, from young to old. He’s done this from the kindness of his heart. He’s done this with his health challenges,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.
This is Charland’s first brand new car and Rome said the Western Mass Hyundai Dealers will be taking care of additional costs like sales tax and registration.
“It’s pretty exciting. It’s nice to have a brand new, reliable car with a warranty. It’s got all the bells and whistles. And it’s a great time of year to get it, too,” said Charland.
Carla Cosenzini, Owner of Country Hyundai and Tommy Car Auto Group, was moved by Charland’s story. “Listening to his wife tell her story on how she nominated him and why. I couldn’t keep a dry eye. It was so amazing and touching,” she said.