Oakland van theft impacting Richmond youth BMX program

Howard Cato, founder of Bay Area BMXers, helps spruce up Dirt World on the Richmond Greenway during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.

A youth program that operates at Dirt World, Richmond’s popular new BMX track, has been impacted by the theft of a van in Oakland Tuesday morning.

Howard Cato, founder of Bay Area BMXers and Flood the Streets with Bikes, programs that teach kids how to ride and stay active and healthy, says the 15-seat van (view it in the video below) used by his organization to transport kids, bikes, and equipment was stolen sometime overnight in Oakland.

On Monday, Cato’s organization participated in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at Dirt World, located on the Richmond Greenway near 20th Street. Afterward, he drove the van back to Oakland and parked near his home on 35th Avenue. He woke up the next morning and the van was gone.

The van was not carrying bikes at the time, but was carrying a bike rack, equipment needed for the youth programs, several donated cases of alkaline water and other items.

The van was vital to Bay Area BMXers’ programs that, in addition to Dirt World, serves three Oakland schools. It was also the team van that takes Bay Area BMXers to out-of-state competitions.

“[Cato] has been doing it since 2012,” said Kevin Bolden, member of Bay Area BMXers. “He goes there and takes 30 bikes, teaches kids to ride and about health and being active. Not having his van will impact that. He won’t be able to serve the community.”

The group is now organizing a fundraiser to purchase a new van. Click on the GoFundMe fundraiser here. Follow Bay Area BMXers website and Instagram account.

Bolden hopes a new van will feature an alarm system and updates that can embolden the organization’s efforts to serve young bike enthusiasts. According to NBC News, which broke this story, Cato’s foundation gave out 97 bikes to kids. “To him, that’s 97 lives changed, and he needs his van to continue his mission,” the news agency reported.