It may be one of the newest bike rides taking place in the Middle and Upper Keys, but the Holiday Helpers bike rides aren’t just for fun. The rides are an easy way to help local parents pick out gifts for their children during the holidays. About 5,000 local kids were given gifts last year.
The bike rides are free with an unwrapped gift for a child, although, in lieu of bringing an unwrapped present, a small donation can be made.
“These rides are crucial, and are fun ways, to get toys to children of our community,” said Jeremy Wilkerson of Wesley House Family Services. “With the devastating hurricane, the need is going to be multiplied. Your help is needed to make sure every child has a present to open for Christmas.”
The Holiday Helper stores will be open in Key West on Dec. 16, in Marathon on Dec. 18, and in Key Largo on Dec. 20 and 21. Families – suggested by partnering organizations, teachers, community members, and friends – shop at the free store.
“That’s what makes the Holiday Helpers program special; presents are not just given to the parents for their children. The parents get to shop for free in the store and pick out the presents their children would like,” said Wilkerson.
The store is a collaboration among the Wesley House, Salvation Army, Key West Police Department, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Healthy Start Coalition, and The Early Learning Coalition.
“By having multiple agencies involved, we are not duplicating services, and trying to make sure every child in need is reached,” he said.
Jeanine Christiansen of the Marathon Chamber of Commerce helped coordinate the Marathon bike event. “The ride was really fun last year,” she said of seeing the bikes decorated along with the houses on the route. “I think this year will be even better going behind the airport.”
Behind the airport homeowner Bambi Kuck saw information on Facebook about the ride. Although she and many of her neighbors lost a lot of Christmas decorations in the storm, they are still looking forward to showing how the community is rebuilding. “There are a lot of people decorated in the neighborhood,” she said, as her husband has been hanging their new Amazon Prime decorations in the evenings. “Not everyone will be lit up this year, but anyone who can will be.”
The Marathon Lighted Bike Ride takes off from Marathon airport on Sunday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. Check-in starts at 6 p.m. with Santa, and helmet fittings at 6:30 p.m. The ride will last about an hour. Many people have said they will be watching the Key Colony Beach Lighted Boat Parade at dusk and then heading over for the ride. Riders can pre-register at wesleyhouse.org.
Key Largo Lighted Bike Ride is Saturday, Dec. 9; it starts at Key Largo Fisheries at 6:30 p.m. and will tour the neighborhood around YMCA Park. Check in starts at 5:30 p.m. and the Key Largo Fisheries will be doing a tree lighting after the ride.
The Key West Lighted Bike Parade took place on Wednesday. About 940 riders showed up to the Key West event, which took place from Bayview Park through Duval Street.