The Crusader Newspaper Group

YWCA of NWI Youth Surprised with Bikes Just in Time for Christmas

The calendar may say Christmas is on the 25th of December, but for 30 youngsters at the YWCA of NWI, Christmas came 5 days early. Thanks to the generosity of various organizations and individuals, Gary resident Markael Watkins was able to continue his annual Bike giveaway for a 6th consecutive year.

“Growing up, I never got a new bike for Christmas,” said Watkins. “Coming from a large family, I always got the hand-me-downs of my older siblings, so I came up with the idea of a bike drive, and it has grown every year since its inception.”

Watkins collects new bikes and donations starting in October, then identifies partner organizations to conduct distributions. Some of the organizations include the YWCA of NWI, Sojourner Truth House and the Boys & Girls Club.

The YWCA of NWI staff were able to keep the secret by folding the bike giveaway into their annual holiday celebration for students. The youth knew they were having a party but were clueless about the special surprise. A facebook live video on the YWCA of NWI Facebook page chronicles the presentation as the gymnasium doors fling open and rows of bikes are lined up with the name of the recipient on each. Once the children realized the bikes were for them, the laughter, screams and smiles commenced.

Joining in on the celebration were State Representative Ragen Hatcher, volunteer Freida Graves, YWCA Board member LaTonya Woodson as well as Larry Tillman and Kevin Benford of Gary Firefighters Union 359. The union members set a goal to donate five bikes which quickly ballooned to 33.

“Making a child’s Christmas never gets old at the Y,” said Executive Director Caren Jones. “We are so honored to be selected by Markael as a recipient of this wonderful program and thank everyone who contributed.”

Jones and her team took inventory of the youth members to ensure that this year’s recipients were all first-timers.

“We wanted to make sure that those who had never received a bike were on the list,” added Jones. “It makes the gift all the more special.”

Watkins shared that the generosity of the community was so great that monetary donations are no longer being accepted for the bike drive.

“I am grateful for all of the support, and invite everyone to get ready to make next year’s giveaway even larger,” said Watkins.

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