On Sunday, December 9th, 519 Portland kids will receive a shiny recycled bicycle, lovingly prepped and polished by an army of volunteers.
But despite the heart-warming smiles of anxious kids ready to pedal their new rigs, handing off the bike is just one part of this very special event.
To pull off their annual Holiday Bike Drive event, the Community Cycling Center (CCC) spends nearly all year organizing with over 65 individual caseworkers (all the kids are referred into the program), schools, and community organizations.
And then there are the volunteers. With one week to go before the event, they’ve already donated 1,538 hours of work.
“It’s important to us to create a magical experience.”
–CCC’s Alison Hill-Graves
Alison Hill-Graves, the CCC’s development and communications director, says in previous years they’ve served as many as 1,000 kids, but now they focus on the quality of the experience, not just the quantity of bikes and kids.
“It’s important to us to create a magical experience,” she says.
To achieve that, the CCC does much more than just give kids a bike and send them on their way. The event gives kids a free helmet, fun and interactive bike safety lessons, a few laps through the bike rodeo, and an arts and crafts table where the kids make thank-you cards for volunteers.
Hill-Graves says the event also has an international flavor with the kids speaking a variety of languages including Russian, Chinese, Spanish, and Vietnamese. (The CCC has multi-lingual volunteers ready to help).
I attended the event last year (read my report) and it was indeed quite magical.
Imagine wide-eyed kids, with their parents close behind, entering a large hall at Legacy Emanuel Hospital that’s stocked with rows and rows of bikes: The kids can choose whichever bike they’d like (the CCC actually preps an additional 50 bikes just to make sure there are plenty of choices).
It’s the result of an effort that takes a year of planning to make happen. There are bike collections held year-round (helped by partners like REI, who hold collections at their retail locations); weekly volunteer nights held at the CCC where scores of volunteers clean and repair all the bikes (it feels like Santa’s Workshop in the months leading up to the event); and the CCC has worked with more than 40 schools and social service agencies to make sure they help the kids most in need.
But for everyone involved with this event, all that hard work is more than worth it. Hill-Graves says for many, it’s a chance to feel like a kid again,
“It’s a chance to reconnect with that feeling many of us had, perhaps long ago – when we received our first bike. Remembering the sense of joy, freedom, and independence provides a sense of connection with our own past and with the hope of a bright future with a new generation of kids riding happily and safely.”
Learn more about the Holiday Bike Drive, including how you can help make it happen by visiting CommunityCyclingCenter.org. There’s also a bike drive collection event tomorrow (12/1) in Lake Oswego and West Linn being held in partnership with Exchange Cycle Touring Club. Check out full details here.