Donations of kids' bikes down

A bicycle shop that collects and repairs Christmas bicycles to give to needy children says donations are down this year and is asking people to dig out their children's old bikes.

Ruth Holliday, co-owner of the Bicycle Pedaler, figures she and her staff have collected and repaired more than 6,000 bikes for donation at Christmas over the past 20 years.

In a typical year, the public will donate more than 400 bikes to the Bicycle Pedaler, 330 N. Rock, and the shop's mechanics will clean and repair 250 to 350 for donation.

The repaired bikes are given to needy children, mostly through the Toys for Tots program. But this year, she has received fewer than 100 usable bikes.

It may be partly due to the economy, Holliday said, or it may be that people have forgotten about the annual drive. But she is renewing the call for donations.

"I think people just need a reminder," she said.

The repair work is done by the mechanics in the shop's crowded basement. The room is packed with completed bikes awaiting delivery.

This is the shop's slow time of year, and they do the repair work between regular jobs. The mechanics have bikes upside-down on frames, where they replace parts, adjust brakes and tighten screws.

Holliday estimates the shop donates roughly $5,000 in parts and about the same amount in free labor.

"The idea is to give back to the community," she said. "The community has been very good to us."

Toys for Tots is the main charity of the U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Staff Sgt. Nathanael Ruble said the bikes are the most impressive donation for Toys for Tots.

"It's generally the largest toy, the most expensive, and really makes a child's face light up," he said.

Donations of all toys are down and the need for all toys is up this year, he said. Several charities have doubled their request, he said.

"We are down slightly, but not nearly as bad as some cities," he said. "Wichita has been a great city for Toys for Tots."