A new bicycle has been on Ava Pickens’ Christmas list for the past several years.
On Tuesday, her Christmas wish came true. Ava and 10 other Harker Heights Elementary School students received early presents — new and refurbished bicycles from the Harker Heights Police Department’s Blue Santa program.
“Everyone on my street had a bicycle except for me, but now I have my own bike and I can ride around with my friends,” said Ava, 7, about her new pink wheels. “I’ve always wanted a bicycle, and this one is just the right size for me. I can’t wait to get home to ride it.”
Dave Haley, community services officer, was the reason for all the excitement Tuesday morning. The founder of Blue Santa, he collects donated bicycles year round, repairs and refurbishes them, and distributes them to needy children.
“Seeing the looks on their faces when I pull up makes all the work worth it,” he said. “Today is a perfect day for these kids to ride their bikes and just be kids.”
Haley parked a trailer full of several bikes outside the school, unloading and setting up 11 on the sidewalk with the help of volunteer John Odom of the Killeen Exchange Club. As the children slowly filtered out the front door, Haley and Odom helped match the students with appropriately sized bike. If a bike needed to be adjusted, Haley had his toolkit handy.
Principal Carolyn Dugger called the students over the loudspeaker and met the nervous students in the school’s front lobby.
“I thought I was in trouble when I heard my name called,” said Joshua Hanna, 9. “Then when Mrs. Dugger told us to look outside and I saw the bikes, I got really excited.”
Joshua made a bee line to a red and black bike with a Mohawk bike helmet attached.
“This is so awesome,” he said. “I am really happy.”
Haley also delivered bikes to students at Nolanville Elementary, Mountain View Elementary, Skipcha Elementary and Eastern Hills Middle School. Any leftover bikes are donated to the Harker Heights Fire Department’s Santa Pal program, which provides toys and holiday meals to families in need.
“This really and truly shows the kids that the community really cares about them,” Dugger said. “Giving a child a bicycle is more than just a method of transportation. It allows them to just be innocent children and to have fun.”