For some children served by Portage County Department of Job and Family Services, a bicycle is the most special gift they could receive this holiday season.
And for many, it could be the only present they see.
Bikes for Kids, a grassroots charity whose mission is to provide recycled and refurbished bicycles to needy children through a partnership with Portage County DJFS, is hosting Christmas Comes Early Saturday -- a day where children will come to Portage Cyclery, 2645 S.R. 59 in Ravenna Township, to hangout with Santa Claus and pick out their favorite refurbished bicycle. The event is not open to the public.
Bikes for Kids has already helped pair about 25 kids with bikes, with helmets purchased by DJFS. But for the coming holiday event, the charity is aiming to have at least 65 restored bikes available for the children.
Portage Cyclery store manager Casey Anderson said they're a little more than halfway to their goal.
About 100 bikes have been donated to the group since the summer, but those in poorer condition typically are used for parts.
Anderson said he's hopeful even more folks will come forward with old bikes for donation, which are restored to like-new condition for the kids. The time and effort is all donated by Portage Cyclery.
"It's something many people have the ability to easily contribute to," he said. "There's tons and tons of children's bikes lying around in people's garages."
Donations have been positive and steady since the group formed this summer.
The Kent/Ravenna Walmart has helped clear out its stock of bikes for kids of all ages from toddlers to teenagers. The store has donated 20 unused bikes itself, an estimated $1,500 donation.
"We take pride in being able to help out the community anyway we can," said Amy Kuss, Kent/Ravenna Walmart training and event coordinator. "If we have something we can offer, we just want to do what we can to provide that for them. It's all about the bigger picture -- helping out needy children in our community."
"I'm really proud that even a large retailer has seen value in this," said Portage Cyclery Owner Kevin Fowler. "We're all coming together for the common good, that's what I really like about this whole thing we're doing."
Even beat-up bikes can be salvaged for parts, Anderson said, although the charity is in particular need of bikes for young kids.
Ravenna resident Birch Land brought a couple frames to Portage Cyclery earlier this month that can still be made use of.
"I think this is a great charity," Birch said. "This just seemed like the right thing to do."
Scott Lazzara, family intervention supervisor with Portage County DJFS, said many foster children have bikes on their wish lists year-long. Because of costs, it was impossible to provide such an item to the kids before the charity was formed.
"This means the world to them," he said.
Anyone interested in donating a bicycle to Bikes for Kids can drop one off at Portage Cyclery or contact the store at 330-839-8429. The shop also works with volunteers who donate time to fix up the bikes.
"It's just a way to make a child happy," said Peter Mahoney, a Bikes for Kids co-founder. "Especially if you're not using that bike anymore, why let it sit there when it could bring joy to another child?"
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