The Blue Santa program got its start on a rainy patrol day in 2009 when Harker Heights Community Services Officer Dave Haley came across a young boy walking to school in the rain along Lookout Ridge.
“I told him he could get to school a lot faster and a lot dryer if he had a bicycle, and that’s when he told me he didn’t have one and that he never had one,” he said. “That really affected me.”
After that moment, Haley decided to give the bicycles that no one claimed a new lease on life.
Elves disguised as community volunteers gathered behind the E Center on Nov. 16 to put the final touches on bicycles before “Santa” passes them out in a few weeks.
Haley collects and refurbishes bikes all year long to hand out to families in need at Christmas.
“We take in bikes from donations, in Dumpsters, found bikes, fix them up and repair them and get them squared away,” Haley said. “I don’t care what condition the bike is in. If it has usable parts, I’ll take them off one bike and use it to fix up another bike.”
This year, Haley has more than 100 bicycles to give away, mostly to students at Harker Heights Elementary School.
“It’s hard to find out who’s needy, so I get with counselors at the schools,” he said. “Any bikes left over we turn over to the fire department’s Santa Pal program. This is what this time of year is all about, giving back.”
Haley plans to distribute the bikes starting Dec. 3, and he will deck out his trailer to look like a sleigh.
“I collect bikes all year long and people can drop them off at the police station any time,” he said. “If people just dropped off the bikes to me that their kids outgrew or no longer want, it would save me from having to go Dumpster diving.”
Volunteers from Target, Sam’s Club, Harker Heights ROTC, the Harker Heights Police Department’s Citizens Volunteer Program and Big Oaks Mobile Home Park wielded pressure washers and rags to ensure all the bikes gathered through the Harker Heights Police Department’s Blue Santa program are ready for Haley to distribute in December.
Mary Evans, 15, offered up her old bike before rolling up her sleeves to help.
“I never use it,” she said. “Instead of it just sitting around at my house not getting used, I decided someone else can ride it and have fun with it.”
Brittany Durvin, a Sam’s Club employee, picked up a soapy rag and got to work shining up refurbished bikes through the club’s Volunteering Always Pays program.
“I came from a community where bikes always used to get stolen so it’s nice to see bikes going back to kids who need them,” she said. “I enjoy being able to give back when I can.”