Brendan Laughlin is an avid BMX bicyclist who dreamed of his own BMX bike at age 12. His parents told him he’d have to earn it — and he did by weeding gardens. After crashing one day, he figured out how to repair the bike himself, discovering a new passion and talent for replacing parts and fixing bikes.
Laughlin turned that passion into helping others after volunteering one day at a furniture bank while in middle school. He watched children in need receive basic items but no toys.
“I thought, there’s gotta be something I can do to help them — maybe I could fix a bike to give to someone who doesn’t have one,” he said.
With his father’s help, Laughlin obtained bikes from a recycling center and refurbished them, giving away the finished bikes to foster or military children. As word spread, others brought him bikes, and soon Laughlin had his own charity, Bicycles4Kids.
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He’s repaired and donated more than 2,000 bikes since then, and was recognized for his volunteer work by the National Guard.
That BMX bike he bought at 12 changed his life, setting him on a new path and giving him confidence in himself, he said. The experience with his charity changed him from a middle schooler who struggled in social settings to a young man who’s equally comfortable interacting with kids and adults.
“Brendan demonstrated leadership in his own, quiet way. He was resolved to do the things he set out to do,” said his math teacher, Steve Buchanan. “He quietly went about leading by serving others.”
In addition to the bike charity, Laughlin has volunteered hundreds of hours at a Port Orchard bicycle shop. Among other things, he helped customers and fixed old bikes that the shop donated to overseas missions and nonprofits.
“Brendan is mature beyond his years,” said shop owner Fred Karakas. “I believe he has the intelligence and drive to succeed in anything he sets his mind to pursue.”
Laughlin has maintained an excellent GPA and is a Running Start student who will be seven credits away from an associate’s degree when he graduates from high school.
He hasn’t settled on a college or major yet but is considering either business management or engineering. He especially likes the idea of working with his hands — one of the reasons he spent nearly 50 hours building sets for the school musical.
“I like helping people,” he said. “It’s one of the things I’m good at.”