VIRGINIA BEACH – Every holiday season, as many as 15,000 kids receive gifts from a charity program. One of the most common presents to top the request list each year is a childhood favorite – a bicycle.
Virginia Beach resident and U.S. Navy veteran Rick Alexander has participated in the charity run by the Salvation Army in recent years, purchasing gifts for kids. He said he’s seen the request for a new bike from local children time and time again.
Because the gift can be a costly one, it’s not often given, Alexander said.
“The request for bikes was so prevalent that the charity would try to discourage the parents from even asking for bikes because it’s hard to get them,” Alexander said.
But this year, Alexander has a plan to get 100 bikes for local children.
On Friday, he’ll set up a stationary bike in the city’s ViBe District, where he’ll pedal until he’s raised enough money to buy the bikes, along with 100 helmets.
Alexander said he’ll need at least $4,500 to cover the cost of the bikes and a little extra to provide the helmets.
It all started because of a childhood memory and a feeling of knowing how tough times can be for families, especially around the holidays. Alexander had once asked for a bike for Christmas, and because his hard-working mother coupled with the kindness of a stranger and, he got his wish.
“I asked for a Huffy bike, which is serendipitous because that’s who we partnered with to get the 100 bikes,” Alexander said.
Alexander said his mom bought the bike, but shortly after doing so, she dropped an envelope with $1,100 in it to cover gifts for her five children. Distraught and in need of cash, Alexander was prepared to return the bike.
Instead, a stranger found the envelope marked “Christmas money” with a checkbook inside. The envelope and all of the money was safely returned to Alexander’s mother. The Huffy bike Alexander had always wanted was safe from being returned.
The following year, Alexander said he signed up for his first bike race, which eventually led to a lifelong love of riding and finding other outdoors activities he loved.
Now, he wants to help give 100 kids the same chance.
“I think a bike for me growing up was like your first bit of freedom,” Alexander said. “And everyone remembers getting their first bike.”
Alexander said he’s willing to do what it takes to get the gifts – including overnight pedaling in the chilly temperatures – and starting at 9 a.m. on Friday, he’ll start his stationary journey.
“I’m hoping that I don’t have to stay out there for a couple nights,” Alexander said, “but if that’s what it takes, I’ll be there.”
Donations to Alexander’s campaign can be made in person on Friday or online.
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