In the past two Christmases, a total of eight foster children in Champaign County have awakened to find brand new bicycles under the trees at their foster homes.
That happened thanks to Bike Lady Inc. – a Columbus-based nonprofit organization that enables foster children in Ohio to know the joy and independence of owning a new bicycle – and the Champaign County Department of Job and Family Services (CCDJFS), which helped Bike Lad, Inc. match new bikes and local foster kids.
About two months before Christmas 2016, Bike Lady, which donates new bikes to foster children, contacted CCDJFS to see if the agency would be interested in identifying local foster children to receive bikes.
The answer was “yes,” said Sara Wright, ongoing supervisor of Child Protective Services at CCDJFS.
Wright said, “We looked to see which of our foster children didn’t already have a bike and would be able and interested in riding one.”
Once the children were identified, Bike Lady picked out appropriate bikes. In 2016, Bike Lady delivered four bikes to CCDJFS – three for siblings living together in a foster home – and one for a fourth child.
This past Christmas, Bike Lady again provided four bikes, to another group of three siblings and a fourth foster child, a 17-year-old who had been homeless before entering his foster home. “He had a bike before, but it got lost in the shuffle,” Wright said. “For him, it means a lot to have a bike now. It enhances his independence and he can go out and apply for jobs.”
The foster mother of the three children showed her caseworker a Christmas morning photo. “The kids were smiling ear to ear over their new bikes, before they even touched their other presents,” Wright said.
Bike Lady Inc. provides a helmet and lock with each bike. In 2017, its 10th year, Bike Lady, Inc. gave new bikes to 1,927 children in 48 Ohio counties – all purchased with money donated to the organization.
Due to unstable living situations before foster care, Wright says, “foster kids lose a lot of possessions, just in life. Some experience homelessness and situations where they’re not bringing a lot of items with them.”
She adds, “Bikes provide them happiness and physical activity. And they allow siblings to do things together.”
The Bike Lady website, bikelady.org, explains why the organization chose bikes as the gift to provide foster children:
“For the younger kids, that first bike is a rite of passage, an introduction to responsibility, and often the first taste of independence – all important developmental milestones in the life of a child. A bike is the very best toy! For the older children, a bike is transportation that creates the opportunity for an after-school job or sport, and a way to get to the library or the rec center.”
This story was written by Schenkel Commuications on behalf of Champaign County Job and Family Services.