Aurora -- Thanks to the generosity of an Aurora man, youngsters who might not receive many Christmas presents have a chance to receive a free bicycle.
"If there is a need, I want to take care of it and make sure we get the bikes to the kids that deserve them," said Aurora's Kim Schaefer, founder of the Bikes-4-Kids program. "The whole idea of this thing is to bring it to a home where there may not be any bikes."
Schaefer collects donated bicycles throughout the year, then gives them out during the holidays. He launched the annual program in 2006.
Schaefer said he has more than 150 bicycles to give away this holiday season. Many will go to families in Kent, while others will go to homes in Aurora, Ravenna and Macedonia.
He thinks the program is going to be bigger than last year. "We've grown every year," he said.
The bikes are distributed with help from people like Laurie Knuth, a counselor at Walls Elementary School and Stanton Middle School in Kent. Knuth said some students she deals with are from families that are below the poverty level.
"We have families that are really struggling," she said. "I would say we've helped over 150 families in two years. We've had a lot of bikes. We've come up with the needs, all the way from toddler bikes to bikes for teens. We try and match the bike to the kid."
Many of the youngsters are identified from the schools' free and reduced lunch program. "We start with that list," she said. "We tell [parents], 'We have this opportunity. Do you have a need? If not, do you know anyone who does?' We've given bikes to entire families, too."
Knuth said Schaefer provides locks, too, and the bikes are delivered to the homes with the help of high school students. "It's a real surprise for the kids," Knuth said. "You should see the kids' faces. It's really fun."
SCHAEFER said Knuth "has helped out tremendously getting bikes organized and picked up. She secretly interviews the kids to find out who needs the bikes," Schaefer said. "They put a lot of time and effort into it."
Schaefer said some of the bikes are donated by citizens who know of the program while others come from area bicycle shops. Still other bikes are purchased by Schaefer at Goodwill stores with money donated by the Chagrin Valley Jaycees.
"I shop around and see what I can find," Schaefer said.
Schaefer puts stickers on the bikes that read: "It's all about Jesus."
"There is a bigger purpose than getting a bicycle," he said. "It's about developing the child, helping them to become a good adult and having faith in God.
"Kids may not know about religion," he added. "So if it causes them to associate [the Jesus sticker] with something good happening, it's also part of the program. This strengthens some people's faith.
"The neat thing for me is, I don't know the total effect of the program," he said, "but if you get one child who really thinks about what happens, and it makes them into a better person, that's the result you're looking for. It's not just giving away the bicycle. It's the effect that it has long-term. It's to give hope, make young ones think and grow into better adults."
Schaefer said he gives away bikes to people who contact him. Call him at 330-328-7506, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to the website at www.Bikes-4-Kids.com. Cash donations to be used for bikes can be mailed to Schaefer at 640 E. Pioneer Trail, Aurora 44202, in care of "Bikes 4 Kids."
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187
Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC