FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Standing in the gymnasium of the East Lake YMCA on Monday morning, Atlanta Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff prepared to advocate for one of his greatest passions: cycling.
Seated in front of Dimitroff were 25 children from the YMCA's summer program who were listening to directions on how to build their very own bicycle; one that they would then take home and keep.
Partnering with the YMCA and Future Wheels, Dimitroff helped host this bicycle build day to give the local children an opportunity to learn about the positive benefits that cycling can have on their lives. An avid cyclist, Dimitroff is quick to explain the joy he derives from cycling and why he has a passion to provide others with the opportunity to discover the activity.
"People for Bikes, you see the hat I'm wearing, is a nonprofit that has a lot to do with bicycle collaboration around the world," Dimitroff told reporters during the event. "Through them, I've met different people for bicycle world relief.
"Some of the things that are going on in Africa are unbelievable, as far as building bikes for communities for them to transport and move around a country that is very difficult to move around at times. So I've decided to take that idea and say: hey, there are people in Atlanta that we could build bikes for. And we've teamed up with Eastlake YMCA and are really excited about providing the kids here, that deserved it … and we have 25 kids in here building brand-new bikes."
The joy that bicycle build day brought to those in attendance was palpable throughout the gymnasium. Excited voices could be heard above the music streaming out of the speakers, while the kids worked together to help each other assemble their new gifts.
As fun as the event may have been for the participants, Dimitroff's gesture was a meaningful one that will have a lasting impact. Jariah Ferguson, one of the children receiving a new bike, explained his initial reaction when he heard the news.
"Oh my God, I'm going to get a new bike," Ferguson said excitedly. "I'm not a person who's too keen on fanboying, but I kind of fanboyed a little bit."
Cycling not only provides numerous health benefits but also creates a shared bond between those who take up the hobby. For Dimitroff, it's allowed him to see mesmerizing parts of the world and attend some memorable events.
Just this month, Dimitroff attended three stages of the 2017 Tour de France. He was invited to spend time with Team Sky by the team's general manager David Brailsford. Although he was away from the football field, Dimitroff learned lessons from Team Sky that he brought back with him to Flowery Branch.
"It's all about collaboration, it's all about communication, it's all about, again, being very very detailed," Dimitroff explained. "And we talk about competitive toughness there, they have different terminology for it, but they very much are – in a team like that who has won four times in the last six years of the tour – that's all about the team coming together. It's not just about the main rider. So you leave with a lot of really cool insight about how to work for the team leader. In our case, it's Matt Ryan, it's Julio Jones, it's a number of other guys. It's about the team coming together."
Dimitroff's love of cycling began when he was a young kid. His father would not get him a car, so he resolved to get from place to place on a bike.
Now in a position to potentially help others discover their own passion for bicycles, Dimitroff is doing all that he can to make a positive impact. On Monday morning, standing in the East Lake YMCA gymnasium, Dimitroff gave 25 children a gift that could have a lasting effect.
"It was really fun," Ferguson said of the event. "I really needed a new bike, and this is like the best thing that anyone's ever done for me."