Building bikes for kids since 1998
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Wondering why we do what we do?
Nineteen (plus) years ago, I had a beautiful baby girl. In a moment I discovered love and the willingness to do literally anything to see her smile, to see her safe, and to see her succeed. Being born in September, her first Christmas wasn't the one that lit the fire, but her second. Her first Christmas, I think we dressed her as a tree or an ornament and sat her in a corner. 3 month old babies have a way of staying put that I think we fail to appreciate until mobility becomes a factor.
On her second Christmas I saw something that brought me to the verge of tears, nearly robbing me of my precious machismo in front of my young family; The light of Christmas in my daughters eyes. The magic that comes from the idea that someone loved her enough to shower her in lights and ornaments, cookies and candy, and of course presents under the tree.
As adults of course we understand those are the least important things about Christmas. Through the years I've tried to guide her toward the realization that what we give is the gift we receive, but should you be successful explaining that to a 16 month old, feel free to tell me how. Since this story isn't about her I'll leave it at that and say she's since come a very, very long way.
What I wondered that morning, is how my Dad felt on Christmas mornings and those weeks leading up to the day of. He worked construction his entire life and for those of you not aware, it's a HARD job. As a child I remember he had enormous, strong hands. I was reasonably sure he was Thor, based on the size of his hammer. Construction is fickle, though. It goes as the weather goes and so does the money that comes along with it. There were a few years where providing for us took it's toll on my Dad. I've never forgotten them.
I wondered how other Dads like him felt. Did they love their kids any less than I did? Not likely. Would they do any less to see that joy in their eyes? Not likely. Maybe, just maybe, what they needed was someone to care enough about a feeling to help. Maybe with help they could do better.
Enter my friend, Frank. Frank is, in my humble opinion, the best damn Barber to ever pick up scissors. (Not that he uses them all that often, his weapon of choice is a good pair of electric trimmers and extraordinarily sharp wit.) I was living in Manassas at the time and came in to relieve myself of about 20 pounds of unnecessary hair. During the course of our conversation (still love talking to Frank today) the subject turned to the nearly empty "Toys for Tots" box that was settled in front of the window. We discussed how customers didn't seem motivated to bring in a toy, but they'd gladly throw a few bucks into a jar. That's when it all started.
Frank decided to put jars in every one of the "Barber Shop & Co" stores around our area, and we'd use the funds we generated to purchase BIKES for kids in need. We called our drive, "Bikes for Tikes". I immediately pledged to go out on my own and raise money from companies and friends for our cause. The first year was pretty good. Actually, it was great. But it got better. We could always do better.
The second year we got a company involved I was working for called Comstor. Comstor is and was the single greatest experience I've had as a professional. I learned the most, made lifelong friends, and found for the first time just how much like family the right company can be. I still miss it to this day. It's probably why I have such a soft spot for our distributors at Ruckus Wireless, Inc.. The point is, however, that Comstor offered to MATCH whatever I could raise internally from our employees as long as I'd let them BUILD the bikes we bought. Oooooh what a mistake that was. Turns out, I have a knack for raising money. That year we raised over $6,000 to buy bikes for kids. We built enough bikes to give almost every needy kid in Virginia a new bike. Then we did it again, the next year. The guys at Quantico were unquestionably fans of "Bikes for Tikes".
Life can sometimes get in the way of a good thing. I sold my house in Manassas (Dale City, actually at the time) and the housing market was BOOMING. The closest I could find a place was Front Royal, VA. The distance proved to be too much to go see my friend Frank with any regularity. Irregularity turned into almost never. Without working together and having other priorities, we stopped building bikes.
Now we can (mercifully) fast forward 10 years or so. A couple years ago my wife and I purchased a bike for Matthew, our youngest. We bought it online from Wal-Mart, and much to our surprise they sent us TWO. I tried for days to send it back, but they had no record of sending us a second bike and would only refund the one I purchased in the first place. That didn't really seem fair to me, so I turned to Facebook. You can actually scroll back a year or so and find the post where I asked for a needy family for the bike. Fact is, I got EIGHT.
I immediately remembered all the bikes we built, and the feeling inside when I knew we had a made a difference. It's not just Moms and Dads we made a difference for, either. It's for those guys at the Marine Corps Reserve working hard for Toys for Tots who have a list of kids they can't provide for...we made a difference. No became yes. Christmas was allowed to be magic again, just for a minute. I went back to Wal-Mart and bought 7 more bikes and personally delivered each one of them, and each and every time my precious manliness was in jeopardy when I saw the difference.
In 2014 we built SEVENTY FOUR bikes and donated them through the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation. In 2015 that number increased to 316 bikes in three different cities across the United States. This year we're doing our best to top that number and extend our reach to delivering bikes to needy kids that want them as far as we can reach.
Help us make a difference!