Jaguars head athletic trainer, Mike Ryan, along with a crew of bicycle mechanics and other volunteers teamed up with the Jaguars Foundation to make the holidays a little brighter for more than 100 children living in Jacksonville. Through the "Bicycle Fix-Up and Giveaway Program," reconditioned bicycles and new safety helmets were distributed to children who do not have a bike and their families cannot afford one. Among the children who received these specially transformed bicycles 45 are served by Community Connections (formerly the YWCA of Jacksonville), which provides affordable housing and essential support services to homeless and low-income women, children and families. (Pictured: [left to right] Jaguars Foundation executive director, Peter Racine; Community Connections executive director, Patricia Hannan; founder of the Bicycle Fix-Up and Giveaway Program, Drew Johnson; Jaguars head trainer; Mike Ryan; volunteer, Logan Rini; and event coordinator, Matt Rini.)
To safeguard each child, a safety helmet accompanies every bike. The helmets are purchased with the assistance of a special grant through the Jaguars Foundation. In addition, the Northeast Florida Bike Club made a cash donation to help offset the costs of the helmets this year. Logan Rini, a junior at Bishop Kenny High School and the son of event coordinator Matt Rini, presented the contribution to the Jaguars Foundation.
More than 40 volunteers gathered together for the refurbishing event. Matt Rini coordinates the event and works at the American Bike Company at Jacksonville Beach. He also helps with collecting hundreds of donated bicycles throughout the year, which are stored in an attic above the store. Rini refers to fixing the bikes for children as his "ministry."
Of the hundreds of bicycles donated, about half can be used to give away to children because many of the bikes are broken down for parts and recycled into other bikes. Recycling the bike parts into other bikes keeps the cost low. The bikes are then later delivered to Alltel Stadium where Jaguars Foundation staff help facilitate delivery of the bicycles to various locations where the children live.
The "Bicycle Fix-Up and Giveaway Program" was founded by bike enthusiast Drew Johnson and is now in its eighth year. Johnson originally became involved with repairing bikes for disadvantage youth at the Baptist Home for Children. The event has grown from repairing less than a dozen bikes into annual event that draws the support of many dedicated volunteers.
Community Connections, program manager Janice Ancrum said, "For these children to receive a bike and helmet is like getting Christmas twice!"
For more information about the Jaguars Foundation please call 633-KIDS.