Giving makes the Christmas season more meaningful
Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 22, 2013
The social hall at Advent Lutheran Church in Charlotte looked like Santa’s showroom on Dec. 7.
Dozens of shiny new Trek bicycles, from teeny tiny ones with training wheels to adult-sized ones, were lined up and waiting to be claimed. Each bike had a tag attached with the name of a child in foster care through Lutheran Services Carolinas.
A bunch of adults — too tall to be elves — were at the ready to help give the bikes away.
I was there to attend the Charlotte-area LSC foster family Christmas party and chronicle the proceedings. If there’s a more festive way to spend a Saturday afternoon than watching a bunch of kids be surprised by new bikes I can’t imagine what it would be.
Ian, who looked to be about 11 or so, could hardly contain himself. “I’m gonna be so happy!” he said. He hovered protectively over the bike with his name on it.
“I love this bike,” he said, straddling it. “Do I look good on it?”
“Yes,” I said. “You definitely look good on it.”
Thirteen-year-old Marcus stood next to a large bike that would fit his already towering frame.
“I’ve never had a bike,” he said. “I don’t know how to ride one.”
“Not yet,” I said.
Then there was Lucas, who looked a bit like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” minus the glasses. I tried to engage him in conversation, but all he would do was nod or shake his head.
Ian and Marcus and Lucas – not their real names – were among 107 foster children served by Lutheran Services Carolinas in the Charlotte and Bessemer City area who were given bicycles donated by the UNTIL Foundation.
Cool Breeze Cyclery and Trek Bicycle Store of Charlotte, community-minded businesses co-owned by Steve Doolittle and Chris Vasiloff, provided volunteers to help adjust the bikes for a tailor-made fit. Each child also received a high-quality lock and helmet.
UNTIL Foundation founder Deborah Edge visited both Bessemer City and Charlotte to be part of the celebrations. She caught the tail end of the Charlotte party, in time to see the kids testing out their new bikes after lunch.
She likes to attend such events.
“I want the children to realize that people they don’t even know care about them,” she said.
The foundation, she explains, focuses its efforts on underserved children.
“Our mission is to help children in their daily lives, children who are in foster care or who are underprivileged,” Edge said. “A bike is one of the few things a foster child can own.”
Lucas was champing at the bit for lunch to end so he could take his bike outside and try it out.
After lunch, I grabbed my camera and headed outside so I could watch Lucas and others whizzing around on two wheels – or four for the smaller children. Lucas cruised by me, slowing down. He’d finally found his voice.
“Did you get a picture?” he shouted at me.
“Yes!” I said. “You look great.”
Because protecting the privacy of LSC’s foster children is a priority, I was pretty limited in the kind of photos I could use, but it a fun challenge to be creative about framing photos and cropping them.
Watching the kids on their new bikes filled me with so much Christmas spirit I wanted to grab one of the little boys and send him to buy a turkey as big as he was and deliver it to the Cratchits. Who knows? Maybe the UNTIL Foundation has that taken care of too.
Before this holiday season is over, the UNTIL foundation will have delivered 188 bikes in the greater Charlotte area The foundation grew out of Edge’s desire to help children and families involved in state child welfare systems. Edge grew up in the Children’s Home of Winston-Salem during the early 1960s, so she understands more than most the challenges foster children face.
Former state senator Robert Davis, originally from Salisbury, works with the foundation on a volunteer basis. He was on hand Saturday to see the children receive their bikes. Edge, he told me, is one of the community’s unsung heroes.
After he received his bike, Ian approached Davis to thank him for being a part of the bike project. After a quick hug, Ian was off to bond with his new bike.
Davis couldn’t stop smiling.
And neither could I.
For more information about the UNTIL Foundation, go to www.untilfoundation.org. For more information about Lutheran Services Carolinas, call 1-800-HELPING.
Katie Scarvey is a communications specialist for Lutheran Services Carolinas.