Christmas was a little merrier this year for more than 900 children in foster care after volunteers and staff members at Fellowship of the Parks built them new bicycles.
“We bought brand new bikes because these kids deserve more than the used bike taking up space in our garages,” said Doug Walker, Fellowship of the Parks senior pastor. “Many foster kids are removed from their homes with only a few personal items, and a brand-new bike gives them something to call their own.”
This was the second annual Bike Works event for the multi-site church with campuses in north Fort Worth, Grapevine and Haslet. Each campus became a giant workshop on Dec. 2-3, complete with bike mechanics and assembly lines. Younger children, too little to assemble bicycles, helped with clean up.
Children's Director Shannon McMahon, supervised the event at the north Fort Worth campus, 9900 N. Beach St.
“A lot of families bring their kids to help,” she said. “It’s a whirlwind of activity for two hours, but after it’s all wrapped up, you know that hundreds of kids are going to be happy Christmas morning.”
Bike Works was launched last year by Walker and McMahon, in effort to give everyone a chance to be a part of a movement at Fellowship of the Parks to help the orphan crisis in the local community.
“Everyone can do something to provide joy to children in foster care this Christmas season,” Walker said.
This year, the goal was 800 bikes and 905 were assembled. The church provided 636 bikes the previous year, McMahon said.
More than 300 volunteers participated by either buying a bike, giving a financial donation or building a bike at one of the three campuses, said McMahon.
Eric Yancy brought his son Kyler, 9, to volunteer as part of Cub Scout Pack 464, which is chartered by the church.
“It gives us a chance to do something together,” said Yancy, of Fort Worth. “Instead of him sitting at home playing video games, we are here helping other people.”
About $21,000 was raised to purchase bikes through donations from church members and business owners, McMahon said.
This included $6,000 raised through a charity golf tournament organized by the church, she said.
They’re not able to see everyone’s reaction to receiving a new bike, but it is heartwarming when they do, McMahon said.
“Last year, a family with two teenage boys from China, who grew up in an orphanage, and have never owned their own bikes received bikes,” she said.
The parents posted a Christmas morning video on Facebook of them riding their bikes with huge smiles, she said.
“Their faces were priceless,” McMahon said.
John LeRoy, of Fort Worth, also brought his son, Logan, 12, to volunteer.
“He comes with me to a lot of the projects and likes working with tools,” LeRoy said. “It’s a good project that helps kids in our community. Some of the kids getting bikes even go to our church.”
Jennifer Kersten, of Fort Worth, is a member of the church and is currently fostering two teenaged brothers – 13 and 14-years-old.
“Doug told us, ‘you have foster children. Let them come pick out some bikes,’” she said. “They came in excited about helping build bikes. They didn’t know until we got here that they were getting bikes.”
Most of the bikes will be given to local charities, such as Royal Family Kids, Chosen Ones Adoptive and Foster Care Ministry, Hope Fort Worth and Christmas Wish, to distribute, McMahon said.
“This is a huge blessing to so many foster families,” said Mark Reidland, Hope Fort Worth director of operations.
Hope Fort Worth will be distributing 300 of the bikes to foster families in Fort Worth and surrounding communities, said Reidland.
“I think what they are doing is such a great thing,” he said. “For some of these kids, this will be the brightest part of their year.”
This is the second year Chosen Ones Adoptive and Foster Care Ministry has received bikes from Fellowship of the Parks, said Founder Vickie Akins.
"It has been a huge blessing for us, because generally, a lot of the times foster kids receive used items," she said. "The fact they’re able to get a brand-new item – especially a bike – is a real treat."
Royal Family Kids, a south Dallas nonprofit organization, held a Christmas party for 100 children on Dec. 18 and gave them all new bicycles donated by the church, said Paula Manley, camp director for Royal Family Kids South Dallas chapter.
"The whole room erupted," said Manley. "It was the highlight of Christmas."
A primary goal for the organization is to help create lasting memories, she said.
"Often times birthdays are overlooked or they don't have very positive holiday memories," she said. "They will always remember the Christmas they got a new bike."