Christmas came early for 35 Killeen children Thursday evening.
The New Light Masonic Lodge No. 242 handed out new bicycles to elated children of all ages and backgrounds at the National Guard Armory.
“It’s for any kids who need a bike,” said Pete Borders, worshipful master of the local chapter.
The group pays for the bikes out of its own funds, raising additional money as needed.
The families who received the new bikes were recommended by members of the service organization.
Jahlisa Williams’ friend threw her name in the hat, allowing her 8-year-old son, De’Andre Williams, to receive his first new bicycle.
“I’m really thankful,” she said. “This is his first real bike.”
Williams moved to Killeen less than two years ago from her home state of California.
“I came here for a new start,” she said, joining her aunt, who retired in the area following her military service.
Williams grew up in a military family, but she wanted stability for her son, allowing him to remain in one place with the same friends.
“The people here are nice and very generous,” she said, finding Killeen to be a friendly, tight-knit community, with a great education system.
It was a surprise to find out this week that her son would be receiving a bike.
“He runs to the park alongside his friends on bikes,” she said. Now the third-grader can ride with them.
Following a hot dog dinner, bikes of all colors and sizes were given out one by one to eager youngsters.
De’Andre received a red-and-black bicycle.
“It’s good,” he said. “Just need to take the training wheels off.”
In addition to the bike giveaway, the nonprofit of about 100 members participates in food drives and scholarships throughout the year.
“I like giving and helping the community,” Borders said of his involvement for the past 10 years.
On this night, every child left with a smile on his or her face.