ENCINITAS — Nothing lights up a child’s eyes during the holiday season than a brand new bicycle wrapped with a ribbon, said Paul Thompson, the executive director of the Community Resource Center.
But for thousands of children in North County, the idea of a new bike (or any gifts for that matter) is merely a dream surrounded by the bitter reality of poverty.
For 32 years, the nonprofit social service provider has made the dream of a bicycle a reality for hundreds of low-income families by providing new and refurbished bikes to families as part of its popular Holiday Baskets program.
This year, however, the center and one of its chief bike providers are ramping up their efforts significantly, trying to increase the number of bikes distributed from 300 to more than 400.
“The bicycle is probably the most sought-after and yearned-for item made available to the families that come through our holiday baskets program, but the need always outpaces the demand,” Thompson said. “I think any adult can think back to the first moment of their first bike. It was an adrenaline shot, and that is what is being repeated multiple times at this event.”
The resource center receives new and used bikes from bike shops, and each year dozens of volunteers gather at the Del Mar Fairgrounds to refurbish the used bikes and get them ready for the basket drive, which takes place Dec. 19 to Dec. 21 at the fairgrounds.
Of the 1,500 families and 3,000 children served through the holiday basket program, roughly half request bicycles on their written “wish lists,” Thompson said. As a result, families have been selected by random drawing.
El Camino Bike Shop, a venerable family bicycle shop on El Camino Real that has been involved with the basket drive for several years, has stepped up to lead the charge to boost bicycle collection for the program, offering a $25 gift card for anyone who exchanges their old bike when they purchase a new one.
“It would be nice if all the families could get a bike,” said Will Schellenger, the shop’s co-owner. “Hopefully through the gift card program, we can move closer to parity between need and numbers.”
Schellenger also called on members of the region’s large bicycling community to volunteer time to help with the refurbishing effort.
For more information about the holiday basket program, visit the website at http://crcncc.org/what-we-do/social-services/holiday-baskets/