First responders unite with community to deliver bikes this Christmas

Firefighters, EMS providers and police are working with an Ohio county children's services department to donate bicycles for Christmas


Alexandra Mester
The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

LUCAS COUNTY, Ohio — When coordinators for the Lucas County Children Services’ annual holiday toy drive needed help building bikes, the pieces fell into place almost too easily.

“That’s a reflection of northwest Ohio,” Kevin Milliken, spokesman for children services, said Sunday. “It’s a giving community. They come out time and time again when somebody’s in need.”

Volunteers including first responders worked to unpack and assembles children's bicycles at the Jerusalem Township Fire Hall over the weekend. The bikes will be donated as Christmas gifts to children under the care of Lucas County Children's Services. (Photo/Lucas County Children's Services Facebook)
Volunteers including first responders worked to unpack and assembles children's bicycles at the Jerusalem Township Fire Hall over the weekend. The bikes will be donated as Christmas gifts to children under the care of Lucas County Children's Services. (Photo/Lucas County Children's Services Facebook)

Mr. Milliken said the agency had previously worked with a Columbus-based nonprofit to supply bikes as holiday gifts for children in its care, which arrived to the agency already built by inmates at the Toledo Correctional Institution. But the nonprofit decided to do a few things different this year, so children’s services was on its own.

“I made a phone call to a community relations officer with Toledo police and she took it from there,” Mr. Milliken said.

The Toledo Police Patrolmen’s Association and Toledo Firefighters Local 92 donated a combined $4,200 from their charitable funds to purchase children’s bicycles. Mr. Milliken said the Meijer store in Oregon gave the agency a discount on the bikes while the Jerusalem Township Fire Department stepped up to host the “Badges and Bikes” community bike-build event Sunday.

Joshua Swanson, a firefighter and EMT for Jerusalem Township who adopted two of his five children through children’s services, said the department is on board to continue to host the bike-building event in years to come.

“This is fantastic, to be able to give back to the children,” he said. “Hopefully this becomes a great tradition.”

In all, 52 bikes came through the effort. A few had been donated previously and about 20 came pre-built off the rack at Meijer. Volunteers ensured every bike was assembled properly and all the details were taken care of, including fully inflated tires.

Volunteers included children’s services employees, area firefighters and law enforcement, and friends and family. A few experts were on hand, including a former toy store owner, a professional cyclist, and a bike shop employee.

Mark Hopkins is a retired Toledo firefighter/medic whose son owns Reggie’s Bike Shop in Toledo. He works at the store and brought in a stand, tools, lubricants, a tire pump, and other accessories to help with the build after seeing the event reported in local media.

“I just wanted to help out,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do. It’s all for the kids, and that’s the important thing.”

Megan Hennessey is a caseworker with children’s services. She and her husband Ryan, who is a Toledo firefighter, and their three daughters helped build bikes Sunday that she knows will make the children who receive them very happy. Bikes are a classic holiday gift.

“We work with families on my caseload where their parents don’t always have a lot of extra money to buy their kids gifts for Christmas, so this is an opportunity for them to get a bike that they might not ever have an opportunity to get otherwise,” Mrs. Hennessey said. “They are super excited. They love bikes and are just very happy and grateful, the parents too.”

Mr. Milliken said children services will provide Christmas for 2,500 to 3,000 children this year. Those who receive a bike will also get a helmet.

Donations of new bikes, as well as other new and unwrapped toys and supplies, are still being collected at numerous area locations through Dec. 20. A list of drop-off locations, which includes all Toledo-area Burger King restaurants and the Franklin Park Mall, is available online

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©2019 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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