"I think this is the coolest thing ever," says Shaunte McManus. Her sons Kai, 6, and J'Anthony, 8, both beaming after receiving bikes in the annual Community Cycling Center's Holiday Bike Drive at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. The Northeast Portland nonprofit gave away 300 bikes while Legacy Health donated and fit the children with helmets on a cloudy December Sunday.
"I think this is the coolest thing ever." -- Shaunte McManus
The McManus family had their bikes stolen several weeks earlier from the porch of their Southeast Portland home, and their mom took the kids to the bike giveaway as a surprise. "They are so happy," she said. "Who would have thought you would open up the hospital and fill it with bikes. All the kids here look happy.
The Holiday Bike Drive has given away 10,000 bikes in the 20 years since 1995. Each December, about 300 kids and their families and hundreds of volunteers gather in the Legacy Emanuel atrium. The kids receive a series of bike safety lessons before choosing their first bike. Legacy donates the helmets and volunteer interpreters — speaking Spanish, Vietnamese and Russian — help make the event welcoming to all.
The drive is designed to benefit kids from ages 3-8 from families living on low incomes who qualify for free or reduced lunch at public school who don't currently have a bike. The group works with partner agencies to register children each fall.
"We believe that every child deserves to experience the joy, freedom, and health benefits that bicycles can bring." -- Mychal Tetteh, CEO, Community Cycling Center
“We believe that every child deserves to experience the joy, freedom, and health benefits that bicycles can bring,” says Mychal Tetteh, CEO of the Community Cycling Center.
Building on the success of the drives, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer has challenged the community to sponsor 1,000 bikes for low-income kids and he's teamed with Salt and Straw Ice Cream to help raise money for the program. His fruitcake ice cream is available until the end of December and Salt and Straw is matching donations to the CCC. The giveaway costs about $50 per bike. If the organization reaches the goal, the bikes will be given away at various events, including next year's Holiday Bike Drive.
The annual event is so much more than a bike giveaway. It brings together people from different walks of life with a common goal of getting kids a first bike and educating them about riding safely. The connections between volunteers and families can bring smiles and boost confidence in the kids.
"Maybe one day that kid will be bike mechanic or an engineer" --Scott Parker
Scott Parker, a retired engineer, has been volunteering to work on used bikes through Community Cycling Center for years. He is self-taught as a bike mechanic. “I learned how by working on my own bike through the years.”
“I love doing (this event) –– ever once in a while we get a kid who is mechanically handy. We let them try a little bit on their own. Maybe one day that kid will be bike mechanic or an engineer.”
When a little boy named Mohamed came in, Scott asked him “ever handled a wrench before?” “Yeah,” Mohamed says, before turning away and burying his head in his dad’s embrace.
If you'd like to help support the Community Cycling Center program, you can find more information at the organization's website. You can also donate bikes at the bike shop located at 1700 NE Alberta Street.