In the eight years the Boise Bicycle Project
has put on the Christmas Kids Bike Giveaway, it has never given away as many bikes as it did Dec. 19.
"It was an unbelievable day," said BBP Executive Director Jimmy Hallyburton. "By the end of the day, we gave away 387 bicycles. Every kid that walked in the door on Saturday left with a bike, a lock, a helmet and a safety class. This one was special."
The Christmas Kids Bike Giveaway began months before the holiday season, when 350 kids were registered for the program through nonprofits like the Boys and Girls Club, schools, churches and social workers. The kids then got to draw the bike of their dreams and BBP volunteers did their best to fulfill it. They worked for months to fix up old bikes donated to the organization.
"We match their favorite colors, their height, if the bike in their drawing has a basket or not, or flames painted on the side, or the Hulk or Spiderman," Hallyburton said. "They've been dreaming about it and we see the dream come true."
Hallyburton estimates 200 volunteers showed up to help with the bike giveaway, including several Boise City Council members, Ada County Highway District commissioners, officials from the Idaho Transportation Department and Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan. Boise Police Chief Bill Bones was also on hand—and in uniform—to teach kids how to safely ride their new bikes .
"I don't know if our public officials always have this intimate access to the community," Hallyburton said. "They got to meet a lot families of refugees. I think there were a lot of perceptions that were changed that day."
The line to get into BBP stretched around the block, with some children waiting more than an hour and a half to get their free bike. Of the 350 kids registered, only 23 didn't show up, but almost 70 more kids who weren't registered came asking for bikes that day. They were given their bike, taken to a helmet fitting station, then the treat station and, finally, to the safety class.
To get even more bikes out to kids, Hallyburton has been working with the Idaho Department of Correction to create a program that will let inmates fix up children's bikes
in exchange for a voucher to get a bike of their own upon their release. Hallyburton said he toured one of IDOC's facilities and there are already 30 female inmates signed up to work on bikes. He said he hopes to have a pilot program launched by February.
"For many of these kids, this is the very first bike they have," Hallyburton said. "You hear about the hard situations they come from and then you get to see how much having a bicycle will mean to them."