Monday, December 14, 2009


I've haven't seen Santa out and about yet this year, but on Saturday I saw many of his elves and helpers rushing about and getting work done.
by Charlie Leck

I ran across quite a sight on Saturday in the neighboring town of Long Lake. I actually stumbled upon one of Santa's workshops and spotted his elves working with great efficiency and expertise, getting bikes ready for the big day ahead. What a sighting! I've been bubbling inside ever since I spotted all the exciting activity.

Wow! Was I amazed.
These busy workers were mostly from a local bike club called (gulp) ROADKILL. It's a very informal club. The leader just sends an email out occasionally, announcing a bike ride for a coming weekend, providing the starting place and time. There's no need to respond. The members just show up if they can and don't if they can't. At the announced time the bikers head out on a ride that provides both a good time and good excercise. They appear to be mostly middle-aged guys who are pretty responsible community citizens. Anyway, their hairlines are receding and their chests have shifted a bit. They've all got that good, healthy outdoor look, however, and they also possess gigantic smiles (or bigger).

A couple of years ago, the ROADKILL members decided they wanted to do a bit more than just have fun -- or, at least, just have fun riding their bikes. They came up with the absolutely crazy idea of providing free bikes for kids during the holiday season. Zany idea, isn't it? No way it could work!

Nevertheless, they started soliciting bike donations and they set up shop (quite literally). As the bikes came rolling in, ROADKILL began fixing them up and making them like near to new -- like bikes that would make big and little kids happy as can be.

I've never seen so many totally happy elves and helpers in any one place in my life. My, they are happy people. The more bikes that come in, the more work the elves need to do. Nothing pleases them more. Nearly a thousand bikes have come in over the last 16 or 17 months. About 700 of them have been fixed up and made ready to give away to kids from all over the metropolitan area.

ROADKILL has been helped out by some local bike shops and parts distributors. They've been given hundreds of brand-new tubes for repairing wheels and new parts for brake and gear-shifting repairs. Each bike is carefully inspected after it comes in and then fixed with the safety of its new, potential owner in mind.

No bike is refused, though some bikes don't make the grade as a potential gift to an excited kid. The bikes that can't pass muster are carefully recycled in other ways.

Literally thousands of hours of work time go into this project. The club also gets some kids involved, teaching them the art of bicycle repair and maintenance -- an activity as good as yoga and meditation for the quieting of the soul and the relaxation of the body.

On Saturday, I had the wonderful opportunity to watch the doors open for a day of bicycle give-away. People who are big fans of ROADKILL arrived first, bringing piles of doughnuts, brownies, cookies and banana bread. The Caribou Coffee Shop across the street sent over a huge container of nice hot coffee with cups and all the accessories needed. McDonalds, also across the street, sent over coupons that were to be given away for free goodies. A very big retail space and a huge storage room was supplied gratis by Otten Brothers Nursery. The nursery also received bikes for ROADKILL for the last couple of weeks.

The delightful people looking for bikes arrived in steady numbers. If parents brought their kids with them, these expert bikers fit the kids to the bikes quite precisely. When a family made its choice of a bike, it went into the line-up for one more very careful and thorough last minute inspection. All the vitals were checked and then the bike was released to its happy new owner.

No questions are asked about income levels, status or need. ROADKILL thinks that's none of its business. The elves and helpers happily doled out the bikes. After that final inspection, the workers help the new owners load them and secure them in cars, vans, pickups or trailers.

I saw some mighty happy new bike owners, but no one was as happy all day as the scurrying elves and helpers, tirelessly trying to find the right bike for eager kids and happy parents.

Dozens and dozens of bikes went out the door. As the showroom began to thin out dozens more were rolled in from the storage room in the back of the building. No one seemed to tire and the smiles remained wide and sincere all through the day. ROADKILL was genuinely happy and they were having the time of their lives. They think biking is important for plenty of reasons -- healthfulness being near the top of the list -- and connecting a kid to a bike makes them very, very happy.

Last year, during the holiday season of 2008, they gave away over 300 bikes to kids. This year they'll do far more than 400.

What a day! I was really amazed, but my amazement was nothing compared to that of so many kids who got their bikes absoutely free on Saturday from the fantastic ROADKILL bikers.

If you want to read more about ROADKILL and their project, go to their web site! If you want to help out, they are a 501(c)3 organization and they'd be happy to put your contributions to good and important work. If you are experienced and want to fix bikes, they could also use your help. Finally, you just might want to thank them for what they are doing for kids.

Want to visit the TreeHouse Youth Organization? [click here]

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