Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wheels for Kids

As I approached Fire Station 1 on foot, I saw that all the trucks were parked out front leaving the cavernous new garage as a Christmas workspace. The firemen were working like greased lightning busily constructing some 68 bikes for children in need this holiday season. These guys know how to use a wrench and I had to struggle to catch the fleeting gestures as the bikes were built. I set my stool up at the base of the fireman's pole and immediately got to work. One fireman spoke to me for a few minutes. He said they love getting the chance to build these bikes each year. This is the ninth year in a row that bikes have been given away. The program began in 2002 when school bus routes were canceled from Reeves Terrace to several downtown schools due to budget cuts. Commissioner Patty Sheehan wanted to find a way to ensure children had bikes to travel safely to school.

The fireman pointed out that they have to decide each year who gets to build the bikes and who gets to give them away. Jokingly he confided that perhaps it is the "pretty boys" who give the bikes away. He took great pride in how quickly he could build a bike however. In about a week the bikes will be given away to children in Reeves Terrace community. Each bike is custom built with a specific needy child's name on it. I sketched this outpouring of goodwill last year and I can't wait to sketch it again this year. The Orlando Mounted Police escort a firetruck which acts as Santa's sleigh. The huge police horses act as reindeer. Watching a little girl wobbling on her new bike then gaining balance with the help of a fireman is a heart warming image that still lingers with me.

"We take a lot of pride in the holiday spirit this event brings to kids and families who need it most. Nearly 700 bikes have been distributed through our Wheels for Kids program thanks to dedicated sponsors, civic leadership and community commitment." said Commissioner Sheehan.


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