Santa Wheels program was established for needy families

The huge smile never left Jacorbeoyn Franklin's face as he breezed through the bicycle course.

When the 7-year-old finished, he went back through a few more times before joining his siblings and mother, Jessica Franklin.

"I love my new bike," he said. "It's fast. Really fast."

Then he watched as a soldier from Fort Gordon helped his 17-month-old brother, Raymond Lowe III, take his tricycle for a spin.

Jacorbeoyn and his three siblings were among about 200 children who received bikes Dec. 17 during the annual Santa Wheels event at Master Pontiac Buick GMC.

"It means a whole lot to me," Ms. Franklin said. "I know that they're happy because they've been smiling since they got here and saw what was going on. When they're happy, I'm happy."

Each year, several organizations and businesses join forces to provide refurbished bikes for children in the Augusta area. The children were identified by Goodwill Industries of the CSRA and ranged in ages from 2 to 14.

The bikes were refurbished by people in Goodwill Industries' job training program and by volunteers from community organizations, said Meredith Stiff, executive director for Goodwill Works Foundation.

"It's fantastic," she said. "The children are getting bikes; we are providing job skills for our clients; and it's gotten an entire community involved."

Before getting their bikes, the children received safety instructions. They learned about the importance of wearing a helmet, how to properly wear it, and road rules for cyclists. After getting their bikes, they demonstrated their ability to maneuver them on a course.

Tameka Dekle was teary-eyed as her four children got on their bikes and waited their turn to start the course.

"I work and you try do what you can, but the way things are nowadays, even if you work, it's still hard," she said. "That's why I'm so thankful that there are people out there who want to do things like this.

''It's hard to describe just how much this means to me. All I can say is that it's truly a blessing."

Sponsors of the event, in addition to the auto dealership and Goodwill, were SafeKids East Central of MCG, Andy Jordan's Bicycle Warehouse and television station WRDW.

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.

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