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Operation St. Nick, local family give kids bikes

MORRIS – For 12 years now, the Black family has helped many local children by teaming up with Operation St. Nick to provide a bike, helmet and lock for children in Grundy County.

In 2003, the late Augie Black and his wife Marie, asked Operation St. Nick if the organization would consider starting a program for children in Grundy County who couldn’t afford a new bike of their own due to financial burdens, according to a news release from Operation St. Nick.

Last week, 42 children from throughout the county received a bike, helmet and lock so they could start the Memorial Day weekend off riding a new bike.

“It’s like Christmas Day in late May for these children. They are not expecting a new bike just as school is about to get out,” St. Nick President Joe Schmitz said in the news release. “When Augie and Marie Black gave us their initial donation, they had only one stipulation – that the children chosen to receive a new bike would have it before the Memorial Day weekend. We have honored that request now for 12 consecutive years. Over 500 kids have received new bikes from every community in Grundy County and the rural areas through the Black family donation.”

Bike applications are given to the grade schools for distribution to families in need. Applications are also available at all the Standard Banks in the county.

“It’s such a pleasure watching each of these kids pick out their very own new bike. Most assume when they show up that they are going to be given a bike that has been picked out for them,” Kathy Dale, St. Nick chairwoman for this year’s program, said in the news release. “They don’t realize they can choose any bike from over 100 that are all set up and ready for them to take home.

“Their eyes light up with joy, and they begin the decision-making process. Some see a bike they like immediately, while others take up to an hour to choose that special new bike,” she continued. “For most of these kids, it’s the first time they have had a new bike, and they love choosing their own bike. It’s a special day for all of us at St. Nick and also a special day for these 42 children.”

Besides the application, each child writes a short essay on what a new bike would mean to them. The parents also fill out an application, which includes monthly income.

“Obtaining a bike would be great. My parents work hard to give us the best they can, but were never able to afford a bike for me. I always have to borrow my neighbor’s bike, because I never had one,” one Morris girl wrote in her essay. “I walk to school, and sometimes where I babysit. I could use this bike to take me from place to place. My parents only have a little van, and my dad always gets rides when he does lawn work making it hard for me to get a ride. I need a bike and it would be a dream come true now that summer is here.”

A 12-year-old Minooka boy wrote: “I need a bike because my bike was stolen by bad people six years ago. I love to leave the house and could go to the store on my bike. We don’t have a car so I could help my mom out a lot, so she didn’t have to walk all the time.”

Operation St. Nick is a charity that helps families in need with children throughout Grundy County with six different programs annually.

“I can’t thank the Black family enough for starting what has become a wonderful part of Operation St. Nick’s programs,” Schmitz said in the news release. “It’s our first program of the year, with our back-to-school project just around the corner in early August. We are very grateful to the late Augie Black and his wife Marie for bringing this idea to us back in 2003.”

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