Thirty-two children here in Grundy County didn’t let the rainy Memorial Day weekend dampen their spirits. Each of these children was the recipient’s of a new bike of his or her very own, along with a helmet and lock as part of Operation St. Nick’s annual Bike Program.
This is the 11th consecutive year that the late Augie Black and his wife, Marie, have donated the money needed to fund Operation St. Nick’s summer bike program.
Joe Schmitz, president of Operation St. Nick said, “Augie and Marie told me back in 2003 that every child should experience the joy and excitement of having a new bike of their own.”
This began a tradition that has now seen 536 children receive new bikes over Memorial Day weekend that they can enjoy all summer long.
Schmitz added, “Augie Black passed away this past year, but left instructions with Marie and his sons that he wanted the bike program to continue to be an annual event through Operation St. Nick. Marie and her family have already given their donation to make 2014 bike program continue.”
The parents of each bike recipient had to submit an application that was made available to all the grade schools here in Grundy County. The application gave the family history, gross monthly household income, and other pertinent information about each family’s financial situation. Each child also submitted an essay about why he or she would enjoy a new bike and what a difference it would make in their lives.
Guy Christensen, Operation St. Nick board member and chairman of this year’s bike program stated, “We are pleased to see that children from almost every Grundy County grade school submitted applications and essay’s, and received a new bike to begin their summer activities.”
Christensen indicated bikes were donated to children from Braceville, Carbon Hill, Diamond, Coal City, Gardner, Mazon, Verona, and Morris.
"It was like Christmas on Memorial Day for these children and their families,” Christensen sadi.
Here is a sample of the essays the children wrote:
A fifth grade boy from Braceville said, “I would love to have a new bike. My last bike is over 5 years old and the tires are flat. I have to walk everywhere and it disappoints me that my friends are riding bikes and I can’t go with them.”
A second grader from Morris wrote, “It would be cool to get a new bike because I would be able to play with my friends more. I don’t have a bike because my old one broke and my mother doesn’t have the money to buy me one. It would be fun to ride my bike with my friends. I would be so happy to have a bike of my own and get some exercise.”
A Mazon third grade student wrote, “I could ride my bike to school and get there quicker. It would be easy and awesome fun to get places I like to go. Having a new bike would be like a dream come true from a fairy tale for me.”
A young sixth grade girl from Coal City said, “My only Papa had heart surgery. He’s fine now. My mom needs a break from all her worries. She tries to do everything for me, but she is handicapped and doesn’t have money to buy me a bike. I would like to take this worry from her. My friends told me a new bike costs a lot so that’s why I don’t have one, because my mom would get me one if she could. So I wish for a new bike to ride like the wind and help make mom proud of me. The exercise would help me keep my heart healthy too. I know God will find a way if I don’t win a bike it will be okay.”
“Well, we made these four children’s wishes come true with new bikes of their own for the summer, fairy tales or not, plus 28 others before the Memorial Day weekend began,” Christensen said.
“It was a thrill watching these children pick out their bikes. Some took only a few moments, and others up to an hour. You could see the excitement in their eyes as they examined all the bike styles and colors on display.
Operation St. Nick is a 501-c3 not-for-profit organization that helps families in need in Grundy County only. Besides the bike program, Operation St. Nick helps families that have fallen on hard times with back-to-school supplies, shoes and clothing, as well as at Christmas, with food, toys and clothing.
The organization also sponsors a literacy program to help children develop good reading skills, a baseball trip for children and their families, and a program to help military families during the year.
This spring, Operation St. Nick helped flood victims and their families with mini-grants for clothing, food, rent and mortgage payments, appliances, and other needs, with the assistance of The Community Foundation of Grundy County and We Care.
Donations to help Operation St. Nick may be sent to P.O. Box 781, Morris, IL 60450.