Doing something special for someone somewhere whom you'll likely never ever meet is a wonderfully mysterious joyful experience.
Friends of the Bike Lady never meet the kids or caregivers that receive the bikes. Yet, on Christmas morning, we all wake up wondering what's happening around our community.
We don't hope for an Ohio white Christmas, but rather 70 degrees and sunny. We imagine the screams of delight escaping little mouths of wide-eyed youngsters. We think of the teens who might realize their dream of participating in an extra-curricular school activity now that they have transportation. And we know the pride parents and caregivers feel. We relate because giving your child that first new bike creates a universal emotion shared by all parents.
Typically, neither caregivers nor recipients know about Bike Lady, but occasionally someone sees the news and puts two and two together and we get a little feedback.
- A young man made the football team his junior and senior years because he got a bike. He then graduated high school and is currently in college. No one else in his birth family have done either.
- Two sisters in separate foster placements saw each other regularly because they got bikes.
- A foster mother has to pry her little boy off his bike daily, riding in rain, sleet, snow and hail.
- A single mother fostering two siblings agreed to take in their 3 additional siblings right before the holiday. She had neither funds nor time to get them Christmas gifts, but bikes were delivered for the sibling group. She wrote, "You saved Christmas!"
- The caregiver of two young boys was thrilled to get new coats and mittens for the boys, but then, a week before Christmas, bikes were delivered. An agency volunteer that works with the family said, "It was truly a Christmas miracle."
- The feedback from a foster parent attending an agency foster parent / foster child / birth parent holiday party watched kids and caregivers absorb the news as a caseworker came into the party and told the kids they could go into the next room and pick out their very own new bike. "The disbelief was palpable," she said.
- After a long search, relatives were located for youngsters in the agency's care and they agreed to take in the children. However, they lived out of state. The siblings were put on a plane shortly before the holidays to meet their extended family and settle into their new home. Funds were tight and holiday gifts weren't in the budget. Unassembled bikes were sent via overnight delivery to arrive on Christmas Eve. A phone call that night was nearly incomprehensible because of the intense emotion as they described their overwhelming joy.
- An elderly woman caring for five relatives stopped in to pick up bikes. She barely stood five feet tall. She was a proud woman determined to load those bikes in her car herself and refused assistance. In the middle of her second trip, she paused, dropped the bikes and doubled over. People immediately rushed to her side suspecting illness. It was gratitude and joy that had overcome her.
- Two siblings suffering from extreme trauma were emotionally barricaded behind thick, thick walls. They would barely speak to anyone. They showed no emotion. They refused any kind of physical affection. Their social worker brought them bikes and one cried and the other hugged the worker.
We've had our own memory-making moments, unrelated to the children, that demonstrate the beauty of humanity. Here's just a sampling...
- The hush among other shoppers at the Walmart check-out in 2008 as the very first 26 bikes were purchased and perfect strangers shook hands and offered up "Way to go!" encouragement.
- The 2008 generous response from family, friends and neighbors when they received emails, phone calls and notes in their mailboxes asking them to chip in for a few more bikes
- The 2008 unbelievable response from the Columbus community after an article in the paper prompted so many strangers to purchase bikes and drop them off at FCCS or to send checks with notes that said, "Go buy more bikes."
- A young college student with a pickup truck home on winter break who, in 2008, hauled bikes back and forth before Abbruzzese Brothers agreed to generously provide that service in following years. And another young college student from the same family who helped wade through 501c3 application paperwork in 2009 and taught the Bike Lady about YouTube and Facebook.
- Coming home on multiple occasions throughout the years and seeing new bikes dropped off anonymously leaning on the side of the garage.
- The response of the local cycling community when asked to promote our efforts. What a truly astounding group of people!
- The 5th grader that won a bike in a raffle, but already owned a bike so her teacher, a cyclist, helped her assemble it to be donated to Bike Lady.
- Federal, state and county employees who cheerfully respond, "Well hello again Bike Lady. What's on the agenda today?" every time we call asking for assistance on regulatory paperwork and government filings.
- The rush of FCCS employees and volunteers excitedly propping open Holiday Wish doors and unloading bikes during every delivery - laughing and smiling in frigid winter weather.
- The glee that caseworkers express as they search through the bikes looking for just the right size, color and style for kids among their caseload.
- The letter with a donation from a woman sharing how she couldn't get her first bike for many years because steel was in short supply and only used for war efforts (WWII) and how she didn't want these kids to wait any longer.
- The letter with a donation from a woman who didn't have her first bike or learn to ride until she was over 50. "Even at that age, it was still the best gift I ever received."
- The letter with a donation from a woman whose bike, as a teenager, became her "lifeline to society" because she lived on a rural farm far from friends and activities and she didn't want these kids to experience that kind of isolation.
- The letter with a donation from a widow who gives in memory of her husband because "some of our best memories were riding bikes together."
- The two families that, for four consecutive years, take their kids shopping to pick out bikes and drop them off at Holiday Wish. And the family from Cleveland that spent spring break 2012 in Columbus, had heard about Bike Lady and called to say they wanted to donate bikes. We love how these families are teaching their own kids about children in foster care and demonstrating empathy, compassion and charity.
- And the letters from an unfathomable number of people that donate to charity in the names of friends and relatives in lieu of giving Christmas presents. What amazing gifts they give!