Christmas wishes to come true

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Central Oklahoma raises funds for Christmas bicycles.

A Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area Command volunteer gives a bike to a parent during Christmas distribution. [Photo by Heide Brandes]

For the fourth year, The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary in Central Oklahoma sponsored “Buck$ 4 Bikes”—collecting cash in kettles throughout the area to provide hundreds of at-risk children with a bicycle for Christmas.

On Monday, Oct. 5, 382 bicycles were delivered to the Army’s area command office. The fundraiser generated $13,600, a record for the four-year-old program and well above the goal of $10,000.

“We want to say a special ‘thank-you’ to everyone who dropped a buck into the kettle during August,” said D’Anna Pulliam, chair of Buck$ 4 Bikes for the Women’s Auxiliary. “This is the most money we’ve raised.”

The auxiliary uses the funds to purchase bikes at a special price from Huffy, and Old Dominion Freight transports the bikes from California to Oklahoma for free.

The program began when Pulliam, an auxiliary member, felt her heart sink each Christmas when a child’s wish for a bike didn’t come true at the Angel Tree gift distribution.

“So many children asked for bikes, but didn’t get one,” said Pulliam. “The parents would see other parents get bikes, and the disappointment was just heart-wrenching. I remember asking the Major if we could just go buy bicycles, but the question was, from what budget would we take the money? Seniors? Food pantry? A light clicked on, and I realized we’d have to raise the money just for the purchase of bikes.”

In 2006, the Women’s Auxiliary introduced the Buck$ 4 Bikes program. Pulliam and Auxiliary President Rhoda Laubach launched a “simple” fundraiser that included placing small tabletop red kettles at area businesses promoting the Buck$ 4 Bikes event.

The first year of the program, Buck$ 4 Bikes kettles were located in 30 locations around Oklahoma City.

“We were able to order 44 bikes that first year,” said Pulliam.

The Oklahoma RedHawks baseball team then jumped on board, offering discounts on August baseball game tickets to those who donated. Each year, the fundraiser grew, with more and more local businesses asking for the tabletop kettles.

“In 2008, we purchased more than 200 bikes,” said Pulliam. “We still have children who request bikes and don’t get them, but the number is much smaller. In 2008, we had more than 4,000 kids who requested bikes, and when all the distribution had ended, only 550 didn’t get a bike.”

Major Dan Proctor, area commander, said the fundraiser was another way The Salvation Army was meeting the need in Oklahoma City and raising awareness in the community.

“Very simply, it’s about joy and giving,” Proctor said. “This program allows our businesses and organizations in Oklahoma City to participate in our area command’s amazing Christmas giving program. They want to be part of something that brings happiness to children in need.”

Now Pulliam can watch the joy in parents’ faces when their child receives a bicycle.

“There’s something special about getting your first bike,” Pulliam said. “Everyone remembers their first bike, and whenever I go out to make a speech, someone brings up a story about their first bike. I think that’s why it’s so successful…people remember that joy.”

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