May 23—There were so many bicycles to pick from that finding the right size and color took some consideration Saturday, as children browsed roughly 200 bikes lined up for the Kids (Holiday) Bike Program.
Since late last year, Bicycle Longmont has been collecting bikes that were donated at Longmont fire stations and getting them fixed up to give to children. But the COVID-19 pandemic paused the nonprofit's plans to gift the bikes in mid-December.
Instead, Bicycle Longmont partnered with the Ed & Ruth Lehman YMCA on Saturday to give the donated bikes away to children 4 to 12 years old. The event, which started in 1988, was open to all families who needed to get a bike for their children, and there were no income requirements to participate.
Crystal Yepez, YMCA branch executive director, said that as early as 6:30 a.m. roughly 70 families had lined up to pick out a bike. While this marked Yepez's first year participating in the program, she said she had heard just how much people look forward to the event.
"When these kiddos get to come here and pick out their own bike, they have this sense of freedom," Yepez said. "We had actually helped kiddos that had never ridden a bike before. My husband was here helping a little guy, probably 4 or 5 years old, learn how to ride a bike in the parking lot. This little boy is going to remember that the Y and Bicycle Longmont came together to give him a free bike. Now, he's learning to ride a bike for the first time."
As kids rolled their new bikes to the parking lot, Bicycle Longmont program coordinator Kris Kooiman helped to check their new ride's tire pressure. Volunteers from Longs Peak Middle School and Longmont Boy Scout Troop 64 also helped with any final repairs.
"Riding a bike is freedom," Kooiman said.
Kooiman said what makes the event special is that it involves the generosity of people and organizations across Longmont, from the residents who donate bikes to the fire stations that collect them and local bike shops that help with repairs. This year, Smuckers also donated 1,000 sandwiches to give out, and Boulder County's Youth Transportation Program provided lights for kids to put on their bicycles and reflective pins for them to wear on their clothes.
Volunteer Cammie Edson, Youth Transportation program manager, helped to pin lights on 4-year-old Anastasia and 3-year-old Dino Gonzales' new bikes that morning. Although the brother and sister wore masks to protect them against the spread of the coronavirus, their smiles were evident in their eyes.
Their parents, Candice and Miguel Nava, said they were grateful for the chance to let their kids pick their own bikes: Anastasia chose a pink tricycle, and Dino took a bright blue two-wheeler.
"I don't think we're going to be able to get them back into the truck," Candice Nava said. "We appreciate this so much. With the pandemic, they're feeling overwhelmed. The community needs this right now."
Nine-year-old Javier Granillo zipped around the parking lot on his new blue bike, with pegs on the back for giving a second person a lift. He said he had always wanted that style of bike.
"It's very cool," Javier said.
Six-year-old Maite Granillo rode nearby on her pink bike.
"I like it. Thank you so much," she said to volunteers.
Longmont's Elizabeth Carrillo said her 6-year-old daughter, Ava Carrillo, had been looking forward to the event. On Saturday, Ava gave her mom a high five when she found the new pink bike that was hers — the first "big girl" bike her mom said she's had in awhile.
"This summer she can go out and have fun and ride around with her sister," Elizabeth Carrillo said.
Kooiman said roughly 200 bikes were collected and fixed up for the giveaway. He said people who are interested in donating to the program should keep an eye on Bicycle Longmont's social media and website at bikelongmont.org to find out when the next bike collection is.
"We're recycling bikes that may have just gone into the trash," Kooiman said.