‘The Bike Factory’ is full of brand new rides for distribution. Pictured, from left: Savannah Copeland, Brandon Lafountain, Traci Driscoll, Christina Rodriguez, Wendy McPherson, Justin Hare, Trevor Hare, Elvira Vega, Tina Belotti.

Thanks to the combined efforts of the Educational Coalition for Monroe County (ECMC) and Marathon High School’s Champions for Change club, 125 Marathon families had their holidays fully stocked with food and presents for their children. Following a detailed screening of students at the school, the groups were able to identify students in special circumstances experiencing financial hardships or difficulties in accessing basic needs, including food insecurity. 

Once the groups identified a genuine need, each selected student was asked to fill out a wish list. Through the generosity of local grants, businesses, churches, organizations and individual donors, the club was not only able to fulfill these wish lists, but provide a drive-through food distribution for the students’ families at the time of present pick-up on Dec. 17. 

Through their efforts, the groups amassed more than $75,000 worth of donated toys, along with hundreds of dollars in food donations from hams, turkeys and pork shoulders to fruits, vegetables and pies.

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.