The Salvation Army's annual "Bikes for Kids" program surprised 115 children at Christmas last year and hopes to delight even more youngsters this year.
The program, a team effort with Kraynick's Bike Shop, begins Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 2. The goal is to collect "gently used" bikes for children ages 3 to 12.
Eddie Matthews, a maintenance staff worker who assisted with bike distribution last year at the Homewood/Brushton Worship & Service Center, said the bikes "were a blessing and a surprise," especially to two grateful mothers.
Matthews said one woman, whose son's birthday is in December, was disappointed that she couldn't afford a present for him.
Disappointment turned to delight when she received two bikes -- one for her son and one for her daughter.
Another mother who was given a bike for her daughter greeted it with "a facial expression that was just priceless," Matthews said.
"Since that day she has made an effort to stop by and continue to express her gratitude and share how much joy the bike has brought to her daughter."
"The excitement of the many children receiving bikes just before Christmas was truly contagious and excited all the staff involved in [distributing them], but the greatest blessing" occurred during the summer, said Lisa Freeman, case manager at the Pittsburgh North Side Worship & Service Center.
She said a young mother whose children had benefited from the program "was very overwhelmed, financially and emotionally," when she came to the center.
The family was relying solely on food stamps and public assistance. And her children have various behavioral problems that were causing tension in the home.
Freeman saw the family during the summer when they rode by her on their bikes. "Everyone was smiling and waving as they passed by."
She said the mother, who hadn't ridden her own bike in years, told her that it felt "good being out in the warm sunshine with my children, not arguing or fighting, but just getting along."
Freeman said the bikes "were truly a blessing for this family and have helped in a way no one could have foreseen. They brought the family closer together."
If you have a "gently used" bike to donate, take it to Jerry Kraynick's shop at 5003 Penn Ave. in Garfield between the hours of 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Wednesday and from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Kraynick and some volunteer bike mechanics will tune-up each bike.
Leah Horcholic, The Salvation Army's Treasures for Children Coordinator, said the bikes will be distributed to children at its various Worship and Service Centers in time for Christmas.
Kraynick said he also will accept donations of "gently used" adult bicycles that will be repaired and sold to support the Bikes for Kids program. He said he also would appreciate the help of volunteer amateur and pro bike mechanics to help tune-up the children's bikes.
Information: www.salvationarmywpa.org; 412-446-1500 and 412-361-0888.
The Friends of the Riverfront will play host to Masquerade Poker Parade fundraiser beginning at 10 a.m. today at the South Side Riverfront Park and along the South Side and Eliza Furnace segments of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.
It will combine a "non-athletic walk, run or bike ride along the trail" to trick-or-treat booths along the route.
Adults 21 and older will be able to fill punch cards good toward a poker hand at the event's after party at the Halloween Village in Riverfront Park.
Prizes will be awarded.
Admission is $25 per person, $40 for families of four, $20 for students with valid ID and $5 for children 12 and younger.
Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.