CHANNAHON – The adventures of a childhood summer can be attained much easier on the wheels of a bike.
Tom and Tammy Opyd of Channahon and their four children are experiencing it firsthand. Each of the Opyds’ children – ages 12, 9, 6 and 4 – received a bike before Memorial Day from Operation St. Nick’s annual Bike Program.
“My 12-year-old could not wait to ride his bike to school,” Tammy Opyd said Monday. “He was able to ride it two days to school with a friend and was so excited to use his lock to tie it up.”
About 13 years after it started, the program is still going strong.
The effort provided 44 Grundy County children with bikes, meeting its yearly average of 40 to 50 bikes, organization president Joe Schmitz said Monday.
“It’s like Christmas on Memorial Day,” Schmitz said. “We want to get the bikes to them in time for summer.”
The program was started in 2002 by a donation from Augie and Marie Black of Morris, who noticed a lack of children riding bikes around Morris parks.
“It’s become a great tradition,” Schmitz said. “Augie and Marie Black’s children continue it in memory of their parents, which is a wonderful gesture.”
The bike program donates bikes, locks and helmets to children from families in financial need. The parents of each bike recipient submitted an application with family history, gross monthly income and other pertinent information about the family’s financial situation.
Each child was required to submit an essay about why he or she would enjoy a new bike and what a difference it would make to them.
The Opyd children wrote letters and drew pictures with their submissions, and the 44 total kids received their bikes May 21 from the Morris Wal-Mart.
Tammy Opyd said her children want to play in front of the house and in the neighborhood rather than in their backyard.
The Opyds recently went on their first family bike ride.
“We looked like a train heading down the street,” Tammy Opyd said.
She said her husband isn’t able to work because of a back injury, and the family is grateful to the program.
“I can’t say enough good things about Operation St. Nick and how generous they are,” Tammy Opyd said.
The bike program is one of seven Operation St. Nick has and it provided almost 600 bikes to children in need over the years, according to a news release on the program.
Up next for Operation St. Nick, a nonprofit organization, is its Back-To-School program, which Schmitz said benefits about 400 children, with $50 worth of school supplies and up to $100 in clothing.
“It’s a huge project, and even though the school year just ended, we have to get to work on it,” Schmitz said. “We will do the shopping the last week of July or first week of August.”