Do you remember the thrill you had waking up on Christmas morning and finding a brand new shinny bicycle under the tree? You could hardly wait to take it outside and go for a ride. Sadly there are many children that never get to experience the thrill of a new bicycle under their Christmas tree. Ride for Bikes a 501(c)(3) public charity is working hard to change that situation.
Ride for Bikes was conceived in late November 2005 when a group of Navajo employees were putting together industrial bikes for use in the Navajo Refinery. It occurred to the employees that there were many children in the surrounding area that would love to have a new bike on Christmas morning but were not going to get one. They decided to change that and in less than two weeks they raised $6,000 and purchased bikes. During the week the group got together to assemble and deliver the bikes.
Robby Gaines, Ride for Bikes Director of Events, said, “We have a lot of fun assembling the bikes each year. I think that is one of the best parts of our plan that we have come up with.”
From the beginning the Ride for Bikes organization set up some rules to guide them on the Christmas bike program. One of the first decisions was that the Ride for Bikes would not give the bikes directly to anyone. Shannon Johnson, Director – Charity Liaison and Promotions, stated, “We choose a charity and they decide who gets the bikes, how many and what size. Over the last ten years we have given out over 2,800 bikes. Charities who have been chosen in the past are CASA House, Grammy’s House, Head Start in Artesia, Hearts Desire in Lovington, Head Start in Roswell, Head Start in Carlsbad and the Big Brothers, Big Sisters in South East New Mexico.
Johnson added, “I have a wonderful job in that I get to call a charity in October and wish them Merry Christmas from Ride for Bikes. I then get to explain to them that they have been selected to receive Christmas bikes from us that year.”
The charity is asked to provide the number and size of bikes as well as if it is going to a boy or girl. From that point the Ride for Bikes organization takes over. A budget is established and a date and time is established to assemble the bikes. Luis Reyes, at the Artesia Community Center has been gracious in providing space for the bike assembly each year.
Gaines added, “That was our second rule, that we would assemble the bikes ourselves. We pick a Saturday and spend a few hours doing good for someone else. Christmas bike assembly and delivery happens generally on the second Saturday in December, a few weeks before Christmas. The public is invited to help assemble bikes for others. We need them to bring their own tools, metric wrenches and Phillips screw drivers. And the whole family can help. We have a job for everyone even if you don’t have tools.”
When asked how long it takes to assemble that many bikes Gaines grinned and replied, “We’re pretty good, our record is 7 bikes a minute out the door.”
Once the bikes are assembled and loaded into horse trailers, the caravan of horse trailers departs and delivers the assembled bikes directly to the charity for distribution. “We are bit like Santa’s elves in that we put the bikes together but someone else hands them out,” said Don Greetan, Director of Transportation and Delivery. “We usually have anywhere from five to seven trailers, driven by volunteers, delivering the bikes.”
The Director of Fund Raising, Tiffani Serich, was with the group when the plan was presented to this year’s charity. One of the questions asked was, can we do this every year?. Tiffani replied, “All it takes is money and people, money to buy the bikes and people to assemble and deliver them.”
Adding to that Gaines said, “Our goal in the next five years would be to give bikes out to Roswell, Artesia, Carlsbad, Lovington, Hagerman, Dexter, and Hobbs every year. That would be something to see, but as Tiffani said all it takes is many people donating money and people to help assemble and distribute.”
Johnson pointed out, “All of the work and donations come from individual people and companies in the surrounding community. That is part of the wonderful thing about this program. It really is a community effort.”
Mail your check payable to Greater Artesia Foundation with “Ride for Bikes” in the memo to P.O. Box 1344, Artesia, NM 88211-1344. Or donate with a credit card using our convenient PayPal gateway by clicking above.