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Non-profit gives away more than 1,000 bikes

West Michigan Elves and More bike giveaway
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

Christmas came early for hundreds of kids in one Grand Rapids neighborhood this weekend. West Michigan Elves and More is a non-profit that gives away bikes and other gifts to a different neighborhood each year.

Dozens of kids watch Grand Rapids Police escort three semis down a snow covered residential street. The trailers contain a little more than one-thousand brand new bikes for kids in the Belknap Lookout neighborhood.

Crystal Smith has taught at Coit Elementary School for 15 years. Today the school is serving as the site of the big giveaway. “This is my family. What – I get to give stuff away for Christmas to make sure my kids have a good Christmas? How cool is that?” Smith said.

Smith is one of around 200 volunteers handing out the bikes, and gifts for smaller kids and their parents. She says it fits into her family’s pledge to volunteer this season. 

“We’ll be doing meals on wheel in the Detroit area because that’s where I’m from. So we’ll be going home to my parent’s house doing meals on wheel Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And I told them, I said they are always so blessed so, you know it’s time that they do something for someone else.”

Mike Roon is one of about 300 volunteers who helped build all the bikes – so he’s real quick with adjustments. “Building is kind of fun but you know putting them together and you just kind of wonder, who the bikes are actually going to go to,” Roon said, “You never get to see the smiling faces and this is kind of the reward for that day and stuff like that; but this is a great program. This is really awesome.”

Organizers spent close to $65,000 on the giveaway this year.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.