Holiday spirit helps deliver bikes to kids in need

From local programs to those reaching across the globe

This time of the year there is no shortage of bicycle donation programs. Even with tight budgets and cost cutting, ’tis still the season of giving, and for some bicycle industry companies it is the season of giving back.

This includes Starlight Custom Cycling Apparel, which is offering sales on jerseys and shorts to benefit the Nianjema High School Cycling Team in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. These sales will allow the team to show support of the school funded by the nonprofit Tanzania Education Fund. Last year, with donations from several industry partners and cyclists from across Virginia, Starlight Custom Apparel provided twelve bikes to launch the team.

This year the apparel maker is looking to equip the team in a design that fits their unique program. And come spring students will compete in races across Tanzania under the guidance of their European coach. “We planned on doing this much sooner but it took a while to work with the school on the design,” said Stratton Delany, owner of Starlight Custom Cycling Apparel. “We originally started working with the Tanzania Education Fund as a partnership with my local cycling team.”

Delany told BikeRadar that throughout 2010 they worked to collect bikes and parts, plus raised money for the project. At the end of the year the bikes were shipped to the school and they started their training. “During this time I was establishing my custom apparel line so custom apparel was the natural next step,” added Delany, noting that his company now provides custom cycling apparel to retailers, clubs, teams, companies, and events. “The goal is to send 25 jerseys and 25 pairs of shorts to the school, and after that goal is achieved we'll donate $25 of each sale to the Tanzania Education Fund. We’re really excited to have the opportunity to help the students of the Nianjema School. I think anyone who raced bike as a youth can count cycling as an important part of his or her development and this project is bringing that opportunity to a new place.”

Santa Gets Help Rolling Out Bikes to Those in Need This Year

Across the US there are numerous other ‘holiday’ programs that strive to get kids on bikes, among them: the 2012 Bicycle Longmont Kid's Holiday Bike Program, which provided dozens of bikes to needy children in Colorado; the Casa de Adoracion Peoples Church in Salem, Massachusetts that provided 200 bikes to children in the community, and Phoenix First Assembly's annual Great Toy and Bike Giveway, which provided more than 5,000 bicycles to children. The Phoenix event has been going strong for more than 30 years, and shows no signs of hitting the brakes.

One other program in particular is also looking bigger than ever. This is the annual Big Bike Build from Turning Wheels for Kids, which calls on donations of just a dollar. While a seemingly small amount, according to the organizers every bit does help. “Our program is a grassroots program, meaning all volunteer up until this year when we finally hired a part time person to help manage all things, and there is tremendous caring and sharing of time, talent and resources to make this program so successful,” Sue Runsvold, founder and director of TurningWheels told BikeRadar. “We are truly blessed that the community, time and time again, step up to make brand spanking new bikes a reality for kids who otherwise would not have a bike, much less have their very own brand new bike!”

Runsvold says that this program really sees help from the cycling industry, as many bikes come from Raleigh and Diamondback. “A tried and true company with a heart as big as their bikes are sound,” she said.

And despite a sluggish economy with people cutting back, Runsvold says that this year was overwhelming. But sadly, even with so much help, this program can’t ensure that Santa will be able to deliver to all in need. “We had, by far, our most “needy” year with over 4,500 requests for the 2,400 bikes we had.  It is never too late to give as it positions us to begin early planning for next year.”

Darren DeMonsi, with Campbell-based EMC Families First, picks up bicycles that were among 2,400 assembled by More than 800 volunteers at Turning Wheels for Kids' 2011 Big Bike Build on Dec. 10, 2011

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