Youngsters who might not receive many Christmas gifts have a chance to get a free bicycle, thanks to the efforts of an Aurora man.
"The idea is to give to these children and their families so they understand there is hope and there are people who care," said Kim Schaefer, founder of the Bikes-4-Kids program.
Schaefer said he started the program after spotting a motorcycle-style bicycle in an area store in 2006. He said he kept thinking about the bike and finally bought it.
"With that first bike, it was almost haunting. I was going crazy," he said. "My wife said, 'What are you going to buy a bike for?'
"I told her I was going to give it away," he said. "That's how it all began. It started with one bike, and every year it's a little bit more."
Schaefer said Dec. 7 that he had more than 100 bicycles to give away this holiday season along with about 40 to 50 scooters.
"Anything with wheels that fits in the bike category, we're trying to get," he said.
At Stanton Middle School in Kent, students will receive bicycles for the second consecutive year.
Kathy Scott, assistant principal at Stanton, said Kent elementary and middle school students were given about 60 bikes last year.
She said staff members work with the counseling offices at the schools to find students in need, then they create a list and contact parents.
"Some of the families need a lot of additional help," she said.
Last year, Scott said one family had five students who received bikes.
"They never had any new bikes before, so it was great," said Scott, who helps deliver some of the bicycles.
Scott said Kent is "a fairly small community, so kids can easily go from place to place on a bike."
"It's a wonderful program," she said. "I can't believe he does it."
Schaefer said he does it in the name of God.
"I'm just the middle man, the facilitator," he said. "I just know this was God's thing that He wanted me to do. He is the one who is making this happen.
"I've never taken a dime for myself," he said. "I donate my time and funds. If you're involved, you don't take any money. That's the rule."
The Chagrin Valley Jaycees, a non-profit volunteer organization, has supported Bikes-4-Kids since 2009, according to Jonathan Seewald, president of the organization.
"Let's face it -- bicycles are a staple to most people's childhood," he said. "Bikes-4-Kids is essentially a creator of fond memories and provides a simple pleasure to underprivileged children that many of us take for granted. I can't say enough good things about Bikes-4-Kids."
Schaefer said he gives away bikes to people who contact him. Call him at 330-328-7506, email email@example.com, or go to the website at www.Bikes-4-Kids.com. Cash donations can be mailed to Schaefer at 640 East Pioneer Trail, Aurora 44202 in care of "Bikes 4 Kids."
Schaefer stressed that donated bikes should be new or gently used.
"They can't be junk bikes," he said. "They have to be ready to go, especially at this time of the year."
Jim Kraus, Aurora parks and recreation director, said due to the timing of the holiday season, the city will not be participating this year.
"However, we are currently discussing the possibility of a partnership in the future to help bring bikes to kids in Aurora," Kraus said. "Specific details and levels of involvement as well as other entities or groups that might want to participate will be discussed over the next few months. It is a great idea that Kim has, and hopefully we can work things out."
Schaefer hopes so, too.
"The program is very rewarding," Schaefer said. "It's like these bikes were destined to be with these families. It's like there is divine intervention. The bikes find the right kids."
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