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Ryan puts kids on bikes

Jaguars head athletic trainer, Mike Ryan, and the Northeast Florida Bicycle Club along with the Jaguars Foundation made the holidays a little merrier for dozens of children living in Jacksonville by assisting with the annual "Bicycle Fix-Up and Giveaway Program." Through this program, the Bike Club donates bicycles they have reconditioned and assists with purchasing safety helmets that are distributed at Christmas time to children who do not have a bike and their families cannot afford one.

The event has grown from repairing less than a dozen bikes into annual event that draws the support of many dedicated volunteers who gather together to refurbish the bicycles one evening before Christmas. 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. Among the children who received these specially transformed bicycles 33 are served by Community Connections which provides affordable housing and essential support services to homeless and low-income women, children and families.

To safeguard each child, a safety helmet accompanies every bike. The helmets were purchased this year with a donation from the Northeast Florida Bike Club. Safety is of paramount concern since the coordinator of this event, Matt Rini; a former professional cyclist, suffered a fractured hip and leg in a bicycle accident earlier this year when he and a group of bicyclists were struck from behind by maintenance truck while riding in the bike lane on San Jose Boulevard. The accident has compelled Rini and other area cyclists to speak out about bicycle safety.

Rini attended the event this year at ALLTEL Stadium with his wife, Annie; while sporting crutches and wearing an orthopedic boot on his broken leg. Rini works at the American Bike Company at Jacksonville Beach where he collects and stores hundreds of donated bicycles throughout the year. His passion for the event is reflected when he speaks about fixing the bikes for the children by referring to his efforts as his "ministry."

For more information about the Jaguars Foundation please call 633-KIDS.

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