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Gates pedaling hard to help healthcare workers in Africa

Alumnus Keenan Gates and a group of volunteers loaded a container of bikes bound for Africa recently.

Keenan Gates (EMBA ’01) credits the degree he earned at DU’s Daniels College of Business with his success in the media business and the nonprofit he serves.

Gates was ready to quit his job at EchoStar to return to school when the company offered to send him to the University of Denver. The program’s focus on leadership felt to Gates like a liberal arts degree that greatly enhanced his abilities to facilitate communication and understanding.

“[The degree] helped me think in terms of context, and in order to do that I had to learn to be able to piece together information. It’s been a great education that I have applied to all facets of my life,” Gates says.

Professionally, Gates has excelled at developing new media products for large corporations. He founded and operated a start-up company focused on media delivery and distribution that he later sold.

While he still works in the media business, it’s his volunteer work that fuels his passion. In 2007, he began a venture with two mountain biking friends, Josh Pace and Rodd Granger.

The three founded Bicycles for Humanity Colorado, a nonprofit that raises money to ship bicycles Coloradans no longer want to healthcare workers in Africa whose patients live miles apart in remote areas.

So far, Bicycles for Humanity Colorado has sent more than 2,000 bicycles to Namibia.

Nothing is wasted. After some 400 bicycles are unpacked from the container they’re shipped in, the local communities in Africa use the metal crate as a bicycle shop. A strong partner in the region ensures the communities that request bicycles are equipped to distribute them.

The local chapter is an offshoot of Bicycles for Humanity, which was formed in 2005 in British Columbia.

“We love to bike and for a long period of time we wanted to connect with the community, but we didn’t really have a means of doing that,” Gates explains.

Many of the plans for establishing the nonprofit took place during a mountain biking trip he and his friends took in Moab, Utah. Gates says they wanted to take advantage of their combined professional work experience and organizational capabilities.

Austin Andres, a Bicycles for Humanity Colorado board member since 2007, met Gates when they worked in the finance department at US West 17 years ago. The two became close friends when they started biking together. He recalls Gates working hard and having a lot of ambition.

“As he gained experience, he became more confident and developed broader thinking about how things worked and how to be effective in a large corporation. I really liked his positivity. He was very focused and motivated at work but able to really enjoy his time away from it,” Andres says.

The nonprofit is developing new ways for people in the community to get involved. It plans to partner with an alternative high school in Lafayette, Colo., to help students collect bikes, raise funds, and provide support for a bike shop in Namibia or in South Africa. Gates sees it as a way to empower young people and to help them develop critical problem-solving and leadership skills.

“I think that a lot of people may ask, ‘Why Africa opposed to people in the U.S. that need help?’” Gates says. “I think that anywhere you go you can make a difference. The world is global; it’s not just local. So I don’t look at Africa as a distant partner. I look at Africa as another community that is just maybe 30 miles down the road from where I live because I believe in a global world, global economy, global earth.”


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