Now that the holiday season is upon us, I want you to think back to when you were a child opening up your presents on Christmas morning. Remember that feeling? Your eyes would grow big. A smile would spread across your face. Maybe even a shout of joy would escape from your mouth when you received something you had always wanted. Well, those are the same feelings we try to create at our annual Christmas Bike Giveaway.

This is our 29th year of giving away bicycles and helmets to kids in need in the county. I have been honored to be a part of this program which does so much good for so many children. This idea began simply enough. To have inmates give back to their community by refurbishing bicycles which could be given to kids who otherwise wouldn’t get a bicycle at Christmastime. And my how it’s grown. Last year alone, we gave away more than 320 bicycles to kids. Also, last year, for the first time ever, we had a pre-giveaway event at Farmer’s Market in San Luis Obispo where we handed out bicycles. It was a huge success. And we plan on doing it again this year.

Every year starting at the end of October, we put out the word to the community to donate any bicycles they may have to the bike program. These can be new bicycles, old bicycles that are not being used anymore, or ones that just need a little TLC. The bikes can be dropped off at any of our patrol stations in Templeton, Los Osos, Oceano or at the Honor Farm off Highway 1 near Cuesta College. Once at the Honor Farm, the inmates immediately begin refurbishing the bikes to like new condition. For the past few years, we’ve had members of Bike SLO County who donate many hours to helping inmates refurbish the bicycles. They realize they have a short window in which to get them looking like new again by the time we are ready to hand them out to the kids. We receive applications for the bicycles throughout the year for children who are in need of a bicycle. As you might expect, that need increases during the holiday season.

Not only do area kids benefit from the program but the inmates at the Honor Farm do too. It truly is a win-win situation. The program instills in the inmates a positive work ethic, self-respect and a sense of worth to the community. As for the kids, well, they get a bicycle. We couldn’t continue this program without the help of our friends in the community. As I’ve mentioned, Bike SLO County lends us invaluable expertise and time to help put the bikes back in good working order. Additionally, we would like to thank the organization Rita’s Rainbows for once again donating money to buy bicycle helmets. And one more thank you to the Sheriff’s Advisory Foundation, which donates time, money and support to the cause.

This year, we will be handing out bicycles at our pre-giveaway event at Farmer’s Market on December 13. And then on December 19, we will be having our main event, the Christmas Bicycle Giveaway at the Honor Farm. We do all this for one reason, and one reason only, to see a child’s face light up when they receive a bicycle. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?